Thursday, March 30, 2023

Car Trip - Monterrey to Kansas City

It was epic and it was long but we did it.  It wasn't easy getting to the United States.  We left on time, 6:15 a.m. with Dallas as our destination   We chose to drive through Monterrey to save about 30 minutes.  It was early and traffic was still very light.  As we approached the first toll that takes us to the Monterrey airport and Cadereyta there was a huge bottleneck.  Shift changes at 7:00 a.m.?  Are you serious?  That was 15 minutes sitting in one of 8 lanes.  

On the toll highway, there were three different checkpoints, all of which delayed us by 15 to 30 minutes.  We arrived in Reynosa and sat on the bridge for another hour.  As you can see we were delayed by bureaucratic systems rather than traffic.  Juan had copies of all his necessary papers to obtain his tourist pass for six months.  Six months of pension check stubs, telephone bills to prove his residency, ID cards, etc. 

We pulled up to the booth on the U.S. side and the guy who was CBP agent was nothing less than a real dick.  I speak Spanish very well but he decided to challenge me by speaking only in Spanish and as fast as he could.  He insisted I had never crossed the Hidalgo bridge with our VW Gol.  I had to prove him wrong after 15 minutes by pulling out our vaccination cards and pointing to the strip mall on the other side where they gave us the shots.  He finally gave up and sent us to inspection.  There, the panorama changed 100%.  The agent greeted us, asked Juan to go into the office, and said I could accompany him.  In the office, the agent said she didn't need his papers just his visa card.  She swiped it, asked for the address of our destination, handed him his card and wished him well.  That has never happened before.

Dallas bound we kept our fingers crossed on the way to the infamous Falfurrias, Tx checkpoint.  They are always stopping people with Mexican plates.  I kept to the speed limit and stayed with the traffic.  All good.  We made a couple of stops to eat our breakfast and lunch we had packed and gave into the road at Temple, Tx.  That was enough for one day.

We stayed at the La Quinta which has a nice senior discount.  We went across the street to get a Whataburger to split when I realized I had lost my credit card.  Juan stayed for the food and I went back to the hotel.  The desk clerk was coming out the door with my card in her hand.  She had forgotten to take it out of the terminal and my bad for rushing off. 

A quiet night and up early the next morning.  Off to Oklahoma and the great state of Kansas.  A lot of talk radio, and more road construction than I have ever seen before bringing traffic to a complete halt at times and causing more delays.  

Taking the Kansas turnpike I was about to say "it's time to stop" but we had a reservation at an Airbnb.  We pulled into Kansas City, Mo., and found the place right off.  The easiest check-in ever.  The lock box was hanging on the rail, I entered the code, took out the key and we were in.  This is another one of our top five Airbnbs.  You want for nothing.  Most in town are around $100 a night.  This one was $61 with a 15% discount and the owner waived the authorization fee.  There are some Airbnbs that now require you to pay a $35 fee to do a check on the renter.  B.S. on that one.

We spent the evening watching a good movie and eating a great pizza from Haha's Pizza on Main St. and 37th.  Yesterday, we spent most of the day with my oldest nephew, his wife, and his son.  A great time was had by all.

Monday, March 27, 2023

That Was A Fun Trip - Now Off To Kansas City

Transito doing what they do best!

It was a fun ten days in San Miguel.  We met with many rving friends and a few neighbors as well.  We had a chance to advance on setting up the house.  We took a dining room set with us and set that up and attempted to get estimates on projects that need to be done.  

Barbara prepared a fantastic dinner of Jambalaya. 

Then, we received a call that one of my BILs passed away suddenly.   We will be going to Kansas City on Monday and returning around the 3rd of April.   A sad passing, it was my sister's third husband and her second loss due to death.  I'll never understand how all that works but life, as you get older really likes to rub it in your face.

We had a wonderful trip home and it was quite fast.  As we left SMA and hit hwy 57 we noticed that traffic was backed up on the southbound side.  Backed up isn't the word for it.  As we headed north traffic was at a dead stop for over 11 km.  People were out of their cars, some setting up for lunch.  I can't imagine the wait but we later discovered there had been a tragic accident that shut down the southbound lanes.  When this happens, we always discuss the fact that there are many crossovers on this highway.  They could easily divert traffic around the accident by blocking, in this case, a northbound lane and allowing southbound travelers the use of the lane.  We do this every day in Monterrey.  It's called contraflujo.  Every morning and evening, crews set up cones for kilometers and kilometers and that allows heavy traffic in one direction to use an additional lane.  Works great.  But, I'm not a highway engineer.  

I checked for flights every day hoping to find something affordable.  No luck.  We decided to drive the two days up and two days back.  I couldn't justify $1600 for airfares, and then Airbnbs and a rental car to boot.  We're retired now and time is something we have more of.  It will be fun and I enjoy driving.

Airbnb is getting too big for its britches.   Service charges, taxes, and outrageous cleaning fees.  I could always become a house cleaner at $130 USD per day.  

Monday, March 20, 2023

Choose Happy -- Retirement Is Grand

Jacarandas are in bloom.

It's great not having to worry about so many things anymore and the last year was probably the most worrisome of all.  Between illness, immigration, retirement pensions, and preparations, it was the worst.  You meddle through it and keep on going.  We did have fun through all that mess and not-so-good times give you things to look forward to.

It's a state of mind but the human mind is one that, no matter what anyone says, you cannot control it all of the time and worry is one of them.  If you say you don't have it it's because you have given it another name or look at the worry as a problem to solve but all in all, it's worry.  The same goes with sleep.  People will say, "when I go to bed, I go to sleep".  People wake up and pee, sometimes toss and turn for a few minutes, and some stay awake for an hour or two.  That's why people used to wake up at one or two in the morning and the whole house would have a meal and then go back to bed.  At four or five, they'd be back up, ready to go to work.

So here we are in San Miguel de Allende.  When are we going back home?  Not sure and I really don't care.  We do have some things planned for the end of the month but they're all fun things.  Yesterday was a fantastic day.  Doug and Nancy of "Running Away With Doug and Nancy" are here for a few days before heading back to Canada.  We've known about them for years, missed them a couple of times, once being at Hacienda Contreras.  Then we hooked up on Facebook and I learned all about them.  After all these years, I thought maybe they weren't real, you know, like Helen and Margaret.  

It turns out they are real and we had a wonderful time and will have more today as well.  

Our kitchen project is off to a start although slow.  We have one cabinet maker came on Friday and measured.  I was asked to hide upstairs for fear if he saw me the price would double.  The conversation went on for ever and I started to feel like Anne Frank, "I'm in the attic, I'm in the attic".  Now it's wait and see for the design and the estimates.  It's really a small kitchen so it can't take too long to get an answer.

We have a problem neighbor.  Since the day we bought the house she has been an issue not just for us but everyone who lives within a four to five house radius.  Her car alarm goes off whenever she opens the car door.  It's obvious the problem is her key fob.  Every morning at 7:30 she takes off for work, opening the car door and off it goes.  She's become used to it so it's all very nonchalant.  She's nasty mean too.  We're about ready to ask her if we can pay for a new fob.  It happens several times a day.  It doesn't affect us because we are always up and about but it's an irritant.  

We go out for daily exercise and I have some weights here as well so I want to maintain my daily routine.  I'm fearful of one day hugging the walls as I go down the street with my mouth hanging open and bent over like a sad willow.  Tomorrow we go for a hike and again on TWuesday.  

We want to fly to Reno to visit my sister and I am shocked at how expensive flights are.  I've got price alerts out, google flights, cheap flights, wingless flights and more.  Still it runs a good $800 USD r/t per person.  Not that we can't afford it but things have changed since the start of the pandemic.

We packed up everyone in the SUV and headed out of town for dinner.  This is a four-day weekend and we wanted to avoid the crowds.  We picked a great Italian restaurant, Ristorante D'Yoalli.  It's about 10 kms outside of town and well worth the drive.  We have gone there for quite a few years.  There is nothing to complain about.  Service is excellent and the food the best, all freshly made pastas.

Monday, March 13, 2023

So After We Climbed The Mountain, Here's What We Did!

It was exciting to some extent and in other respects, it wasn't.  There were a series of birthday parties.  Mexicans love to party so they just invent reasons to get together.

The first one I invited Juan's siblings and inlaws out for a spectacular dinner at a pretty swank place called Save.  Save gets its name from Guasave, where the restaurant originated.  I think there are three in Mexico now.  It's a hilltop setting with great views.  Everyone had a great time, the food was good and I spent a lot of money.  

Then the two of us had dinner out the next week at a local restaurant in Santiago, La Anfora.  The best Italian food we have had with the exception of La Strega in Mexico City.  Like always, we pick nights when we know there are no crowds and it's quiet where we can sit and talk for a long while.  

The next week, we had a group party of friends.  In the dance group two other dancers, Suzanna and Clara had birthdays the same week.  Clara invited us to her house.  She has a wonderful patio filled with lights and trees in a suburb of Monterrey.  Everyone brought their own steaks and drinks and Clara's brother, who is also in the group was the grill cook.  We stayed until 2 a.m.  I haven't done that for years.  I don't drink when we go to parties as I am the designated driver.

It looks just like the old one and that's what we wanted.  

The pool remodel is finished.  The lighting I ordered will arrive in Mexico next week so there is no water in the pool as of yet.  The grout has to dry anyway so there is no rush.  We are leaving in the morning for San Miguel de Allende and plan to stay there for about two weeks.  We'll be visiting with rvers who plan to head back home at the end of the month.  I guess it was a good winter, lots of Canadians came this year and many of the parks had greater crowds than last.  It appears that many people have abandoned their rvs and are flying down and renting places to stay.  I'd prefer to use the RV. 

We are taking another load of furniture to SMA.  We had purchased a dining room set just to have something and we thought it was a good deal.  It was but we don't really like it and found something better for home in Santiago and will take our existing dining room down with us as well as some other odds and ends.  I am a bit disappointed with the kitchen though.  We found a great cabinet maker but they have so much work he has stopped taking orders and doesn't know when he will resume.  Bummer as we like what we saw and his work is true quality.  We will look around while we are there to see what else we can find.

The weather here has been whacky.  As we say in Spanish, "febrero loco marzo otro poco" (Crazy February and a little more in March.  As an example, yesterday it was 39C and today it is 18C.  Talk about crazy.

We had two funeral masses over the weekend for Juan's niece who passed away in Dallas.   Her mother brought her ashes to the funeral last Friday.  It was a huge event with many of the family and friends showing up.  We took his niece's family out for lunch afterward for some seafood.  With the heat, it seemed fitting.  
To put it politely, enough family stuff for this year.  We are off to Texas in April and a week in Reno, Nevada to visit my 80-year-old sister.  She is still recovering from hip surgery and is now using a cane but will soon get rid of that.  I cannot believe that three of my siblings are over 80 now.  Well, with all this family talk and death and dying I couldn't hold back any longer.  I made it clear that we can't stop the world from turning and waiting around for things to happen.  If we're in Timbuktu and someone passes, I'm not getting on a plane and coming back home.  If we're not here, we're not here.  The dead won't know.  

And the same goes for me.  I don't even want a funeral, what for.  I won't be there to enjoy it!  My thoughts are simple.  Once I expire, no need for funeral, coffin, ashes, parties for wakes.  The man left the same way he came.   I was a quiet baby 😎

Of course, I cannot leave you without a political comment.  Even in the U.S. there is talk of an authoritarian government here in Mexico.  We joined the march in Mexico on February 26th to fight for democracy.  Millions around the country came out in over 100 cities including the U.S. and Spain.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Took A Hike Up A Mountain


We decided over the weekend to make a trek up the great symbol of Monterrey, Cerro de la Silla or Saddleback Mountain.  Unfortunately, we are at home until the 14th of March.  One of Juan's nieces who lived in Dallas was killed in an accident.  She was hit by a car crossing the street.  They want to return her ashes to Monterrey and the funeral will be on the 11th.

Park entrance

Rayados Soccer Stadium

We headed out early this morning.  We will have temperature highs of 43C this week so it was important to get a head start.  We left the house at 6:45 arriving at the bottom of the trail at 7:30.  The street that runs through the neighborhood is unbelievably steep so that was the first hurdle.   The wind was picking up and even though it was early it was hot air.  We were afraid they would close the trail with the drought and high winds.  Forest fires are inevitable right now and we are surprised we haven't had anything major. 

The climb is considered moderate by online trail guides but there is no zigzagging and the 90% of the trail is a direct climb.  It's hard on the lungs and we weren't in the minority.  Of course, one 150 year old fart was running up the trail.  There's always one!

Nice views of the city.  In fact, this is the view we had from our house when we lived in the city.

We were in shade most of the hike up and down.  As the winds continued the smog began to lift over the city.  We made it to the platform (the old cable car which used to run up the mountain and is now out of service) and did some picture-taking.  They have installed a solar charging station for cell phones and cameras.  Pretty cool.

Going down wasn't that easy.  The trail is mostly rock and very slippery.  I took one fall as did many other people.  I could feel it in my arches but we were well prepared.  We had all the essentials with us in the backpack for just in case situations.  

On the way home we stopped and picked up a couple of well-deserved tacos.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Our First Travel Trailer - Trailmanor 2720
As the swimming pool remodel gets underway I am taking advantage of the time and getting the trailer ready.  Believe it or not, I am actually waxing it.  I'm doing the Tioga and George way, one section at a time.  I should be done by the end of this week.  Amazing what a coat of wax will do to shine up a 15-year-old travel trailer.

I'm also going through old pictures and scanning the ones I want to have on hand.  A lot of family photos bring back a lot of good memories. We were a good-looking bunch at one time.  Boy does time take a toll.  That's how it rolls.

I've found pictures of the house we built in Monterrey in 1996 and also pictures of my beloved 2000 Trailmanor.  Our first ever rv.  We had to leave it in an RV park in Texas because we didn't have the cash to import it.  Funny how things were and how they are today.  We had a lot of fun in that rv and I thought I'd share a few pictures of it.

Trailmanor are hard-sided folding trailers.  It gave us incredible gas mileage.  Too bad I couldn't recognize what a winner we had until we sold it and bought a standard trailer.

This model was a 2720, 20 feet closed and 27 feet open.  It had a full kitchen, bath and a king-size bed.  A very comfortable set up and we used it in all kinds of weather including snow and heavy rains.

Here is my Chevy pickup.  I bought it from a guy in Monterrey.  Manual transmission with A/C.  I loved the truck, it was a blast to drive.  Juan didn't care much for it because of the rear window and the sun on his neck.  He always wore a straw hat when we took trips.

I sold the truck to a local guy here in Santiago.  He's an electrician and does work for us when we need it.  He kept it for many years before passing it on to his son.  I never had an issue with it.  I want to say it was a 1994.  

We didn't know about boondocking when we first started out and would stick to Texas state parks.  We had the annual day pass which saved us quite a bit.  That was when we first discovered West Texas and beautiful the desert is.  That was the start of our interest of getting away from civilization and boondocking.  

I doubt will ever buy another travel trailer, but if we were to, I'd get a Trailmanor.  So easy to drive, has great gas mileage and you don't need a heavy SUV or pickup to tow it.

Well, back to scanning and planning our trip.  The weather is changing and it was 33C today.  Time to get the pool finished, visit SMA and do some boondocking.  

Saturday, February 4, 2023

It Took A While But It's A Done Deal

After six months of fighting the system, Juan was able to retire from the prepa (high school).  He started the year it was opened, 30 years ago.  He is the first to retire from the school so many teachers were sad to see him go.  

He's decompressing now and had his first sleep-in today.  He's going to love it.  We are now making plans for our first year of travel.  First, we'll make two trips to San Miguel de Allende and then an RV trip to South Padre Island for a week before the end of March.  They will start on the pool remodel next week.  

After that who knows.  I am checking daily for the best flights to Spain and other destinations.  

Monday, January 23, 2023

New Patio Cover - Cold Weather

I had started a post on the cathedral in Oaxaca but it sounded kind of boring.  The pictures are great and I may post them later this week.  We decided to start some projects with funds from my AFORE account, similar to a 401K.  We have three major projects to do.  A new or repaired driveway, pool remodel and a roof over the back patio.  We chose the roof first and it was finished this weekend.

Photoshopped with the columns.

It took about four days total and the guys did a great job.  First and foremost was their timeliness.  They showed up every day at 9 a.m. and were out by 6 p.m.  They were quiet, courteous, and cleaned up every evening not leaving so much as a nail.  

It's a steel structure with a laminated roof that matches the palapa roof.  There is more to do though.  We want the interior of the roof sheet rocked and make the columns to match the front porch and the palapa.  We are waiting for the rain to come so we can test the roof before doing that.

I was asked to speak at a conference in Ecuador.  It was a total of a week.  I gave it quite a bit of thought but, no I don't want to work anymore and it would just delay our plans.  Plus, I would have to put together presentations and also prepare for a couple smaller talks at universities.  The team there is very nice and they treat me like royalty.  They also know how to squeeze every drop out of you as well not to mention the sometimes 9-hour layovers in Panama.   Nope, I let them know this morning that I truly appreciated the offer but it was time to move aside and let the younger people have a go at it.  I miss it though, I enjoyed it thoroughly.  On to new adventures.

I'm currently checking flights to Spain.  Prices are still pretty good and AeroMexico has a direct flight to Madrid from Monterrey.  We still have miles to burn so that will help.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Trip To Etla, Oaxaca Textile Factory

During our Christmas trip in Oaxaca, we needed to get out of town.  It's always fun to travel with others but it's hard to get up and going.  We found ourselves sticking mostly to the central part of the city.  I did take a taxi to go grocery shopping one day.  After all, we did have a complete apartment with a working kitchen.  

The best way for me to find a place to visit is to use Google maps.  I started at Oaxaca (the city) and looked to see what was in a radius of less than an hour by bus.  The first thing that popped up was the town of Etla.  I went back to Google search to see what I could find out about the town and if it was known for anything in particular.  Sure enough, it was known for the giant textile factory that was in existence from 1883 until its transformation into an arts center in the 1950s.  A famous painter, Francisco Toledo, was looking for a place for artists to do what they do best.  He wanted to give them a place and an opportunity to paint and create textiles, and pottery.  Along with Jose Zarilla Trapaga, who had a dream of restoring the buildings, they created the first ecological Arts Center of Latin America.  Today it is called CASA or Centro de Arte San Agustin.

Taxis are very expensive for groups and vans as well.  We had prices in the 1800 to 2000 peso price range.  It just so happened that Juan and I had lunch with a teacher we have worked with for years.  She has taught English in the state program for over 35 years and also has a bookstore in the downtown area (school text for language learning).  I asked her about going to Etla and the best way to get there.  She put us in contact with a retired teacher who gives tours and has a van.  It worked out well.  We paid 200 pesos per person and he took us there and stayed for the almost five-hour trip.  It turns out that he is well-versed in the arts center. 

The generator room that provided power to the factory was generated by water that flows through the river on the property.

Steam stack on top of the main factory floor.  Now there are reflective pools and fountains that surround it.

The current gallery selection is enormous textiles with scenes woven into them.  That may not be the best way to describe it.  Also, there is the history of the factory along with the transformation.  He wandered around as well as we did and answered any questions we had.  It was a good choice. 

These are massive weaves made from silver photographs.  The detail is amazing.  The photographs hang on the sides of the factory walls.  

Apart from the art and the story of the textile factory, Etla supplies most of the water to the city of Oaxaca.  Oaxaca has a city water system but the water is not good quality.  Most people buy their water from a pipa (small tanker truck).  The trucks, just like LP gas, drive around and make scheduled stops.  Long hoses are used to fill cisterns.  It's a mess.  You'll always hear the generators from the trucks pumping water.  Fortunately, Monterrey has a wonderful water system and also natural gas lines for all the homes in the metro area.

Factory floor where the spinning machines were located.

Rooftop view of the surrounding mountains.

After we were finished, we found a small fondita or house that has a small outdoor restaurant.  The food was delicious and our waitress didn't speak English or Spanish.  She is from an indigenous rural community and is learning to speak Spanish.  We had coffee and chatted with the owner for a bit.  We headed back home and I had hoped to plan another day trip but we ran out of time.  We can always go back.