Friday, April 28, 2023

We Have Two Tickets!

After constant searching for decent airfares to Europe, we finally found the flight that was right for us.  The fares are all over the place and it is still hard to wrap our heads around the pricing structures.  I have to admit that I stopped traveling the first month of the pandemic and 

We searched many origin cities such as Monterrey, Guadalajara, Houston, Dallas, and Cancun.  Juan has a niece who is an independent or freelance agent but services mostly Cancun and holiday packages.  I don't remember the name of the airline but they fly exclusively from Cancun to Madrid for 6000 pesos.  Sounds great but you still have to get to Cancun, then spend a night coming and going, and then find a flight on another airline coming back.  Too complicated and the cost would be about the same as any other airline.  

I found a flight on Iberia from Mexico City.  With taxes, the price was $680 r/t and they are direct flights that are 11 hours in each direction.  We are going in August and staying for about a month.  We'll go to the house in San Miguel de Allende a spend a couple of weeks before taking the bus to the airport in Mexico City.  We won't be packing much and there are still a lot of details to work out.  We probably won't be sitting together either but those are all small details compared to the bigger picture.  Although Juan had traveled to Europe several times, it was with the dance group and not on his own.  It will be a learning experience and I'm sure many of you will chime in.  

We will be going to Madrid and staying for about five days before heading out to other destinations.  We are thinking of smaller rural towns and traveling via bus or train.  Booking in August gives us time to do some planning.  Flexibility for us is most important.   

Hopefully this will be the beginning of some travel to places we've always thought about.  A friend just returned from a work trip to China and loved the place.  Language will always be a barrier for travelers and with google translate, there shouldn't be any issues.

It is interesting how many people in SMA and RV travelers suffer from language differences yet they use their cell phones mostly for taking pictures when it is a tool that can open the world, culture, and also save your butt in difficult situations.  

Friday, April 14, 2023

Side Trip To South Padre Island - So Was It Cheaper To Drive Than Fly?

Was it worth it to drive 1000 miles each way to Kansas City?  I think it was.  We used GasBuddy along the way as well as senior discounts wherever they were available.  The Airbnbs were the best deal overall but it required some work.  Many were not open to negotiating the price and as I said in the last post, they have so many additional charges that it can raise the price considerably.  Our best deal was in Liberal, Mo where there were no charges, just a flat rate with sales tax.  

The tickets to fly to Kansas City varied in price depending on the departure city.  There were five but four required driving, gas, and tolls; Monterrey, McAllen, Laredo, Harlingen, and San Antonio.  Monterrey, McAllen, and Laredo were all very close in price, go figure.  

Driving took us two days but it really seemed to be much more fun.  It was long at times but having a great copilot serving me hot coffee and snacks made it even better.  We could stop and take pictures and pee breaks.  Here is a simple breakdown of what the expenses were.  We took advantage of both the hotels and the Airbnbs to make coffee and fill our thermos.  We took our own coffee and filters so we were able to do that.  At the hotels, they had very good hot breakfasts.  We took a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a bagel, and cream cheese along with other things to have for lunch.  

Gas $280

Tolls $48

Food $200

Total $528

The airfares were $1399 plus stays, rental car, and fuel.

We have friends in South Padre Island who have lived there full-time since 1989.  They have a fourth-floor condo and a fifth wheel.  They traveled extensively in Mexico and have now decided to sell the fifth wheel.  Gene is 88 and Dana in her mid-80s.  Gene is a true example of how I want to be when I'm in my 80s.  He swims every day and rides his bicycle around the island.  He is in very good shape and you would be hard-pressed to believe he is even in his 80s.  

We also knew that our friends Paula and Jerry were going to be there and we decided to stop by for a couple of days to surprise them.  It was a blast and everyone was surprised we were there.  

We wanted to make it a visit to remember based on various circumstances so we spent our time together mostly hanging out together, chatting, and sharing meals.  Gene invited us over one day for his special strawberry shortcake which was really great including the fresh whipped cream on top,  

After the stress of the funeral, family, and mega-driving, it was great to just relax and decompress.  They were days well-spent.  I was able to see my sister and leave knowing she is in good hands and that we had an opportunity to see our friends in SPI. 

Would I do the drive again?  Anything for my family.  They may not feel the same but in the end, it made me feel good that we did it.  

Monday, April 3, 2023

Celebration of Life - Sad Times Become Good Memories

Wow, that was a drive. The winds have been the strongest we have ever seen and there are tornados swirling around the area as well.  As always, we confirmed the fact that we are not hotel people.  Now on the way home, we stopped in Temple, Texas for the night returning to the same hotel we used on the way up.  Our stay in the hotel in Cameron, Missouri was fine although 40 minutes from my sister's house.  It was the best we could find.  The others had stinky reviews.  Overall it was a good night, great bedding and good eats in the morning.

Friday night we had dinner with my sister.  She told us her story and I thought, here she is, out in the middle of nowhere all by herself.  During the course of dinner, people came up to her to offer her their sympathies, those that had not seen her.  It was good catching up.  We had had a rift of some sort over the years.  I always thought she was working too hard and getting little out of her efforts.  Missouri winters are hard and living on a farm in an area (at the time) she was doing all the work and driving two hours to work every day. 

The next day we drove through the town she used to live in.  It is now abandoned as so many rural towns are.  The cemetery is full of all those that have lived there over the last 170 years.  It was interesting to see how quickly a town can deteriorate.  We were there in the last twenty years and it was still alive but limping along.   My sister at that time was married to a local real estate agent.  They owned mobile homes and rented them out to farm workers.  Drugs entered the town and workers started stealing ammonia used for fertilizer to make meth.  Meth labs opened up, zombies took over and many of my sister's properties caught fire and burned to the ground.

Left to right:  My oldest niece Christina, me, my little brother Philip, sister Cecilia, oldest nephew Patrick, wife Virginia, and Juan.

After, we headed over to the celebration of life for my BIL.  Amazing how living in a small town everyone truly knows everyone else!  The place was packed and we shared stories, shed some tears, and met my sister's in-laws and family.  It was a great celebration for someone who I had never met although heard quite a bit about.  I now realize what a full and wonderful life my sister has.  I still think she works too hard and should stop but she finds her work fulfilling working with patients suffering from mental disorders.

On our way home stopping by the beach for a couple of days before heading back to Monterrey.  Tourists will be heading north and we will be going south.