Monday, March 31, 2008
Here is yours truly enjoying a "Wobbly Pop" in Rosa's Cantina.
Croft, Norma and our friend Les from Vancouver Island who caught up to us here after his own winter in Mexico. It was a great reunion. We went over to Ciudad Juarez earlier today where Norma and Les bought new glasses at Opticas Devlyn. The service was great there, the price was right and the glasses were ready in two hours!
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Next is the Guia Roji Road Map Book. You can find this at any OXXO Store in Mexico. Many Pemex Gas Stations have an OXXO alongside. They cost $190 Pesos or about $18 CAN. It is "THE" Mexican road map book!
This is the Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico. You can order it from Amazon.com (or Amazon.ca) before you leave. We also bought the Fromers guide but it only covers the large cities. Lonely Planet Guide has all cities and villages. Their hotel recommendations are spot-on and the prices quoted are accurate.
Have an English / Spanish dictionary with you all the time. You will find that in the interior of Mexico very few people speak any English at all. You will need to carry the book with you so don't buy one that will not fit in your pocket. If you are trying to read a menu the book will do you no good back in the motorhome or hotel! This one is put out by Lonely Planet and is good, but there are many others. Just make sure it fits in your back pocket. Maybe even have two for when you loose one.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Fuel - Motorhome.................... $975 ($6.77 per day)
Fuel - Honda.............................. $368 ($2.55 per day)
RV Parks...................................... $2217 ($15.39 per day) - We boondocked a few nights in grocery store parking lots and Pemex Stations (maybe 10 nights total)
Groceries..................................... $2255 ($15.66 per day) - We entertained a lot, includes soap, TP and maybe a little liquor snuck in here although I tried to separate it.
Liquor........................................... $795 ($5.52 per day) - We entertained a lot and booze in Mexico is cheaper than in Canada but more than in the USA.
Hotels............................................ $345 - 7 nights (Guanajuato, Veracruz)
Taxis.............................................. $151 - Exploring Centros where parking is bad
Highway Tolls............................ $491 - No Comment!
Dining Out / Entertainment.... $3375 ($23.44 per day) - Average one meal out per day and many cervesas in sidewalk cafes.
Communications........................... $105 ($0.75 per Day) - SIM Card, Prepaid Cell Card, LD Card, Skype, WIFI charges a few times
Mex. Vehicle Insurance.............. $330 ($2.29 per day) - Motorhome, Honda, Dolly for 6 months.
Travel Health Insurance............ $1211 ($8.41 per day)
Totals........................................ $11,578 ($80.40 per day)... Try that in hotels and restaurants for almost five months!
The total is $11,578 for 144 days or, $80.40 per day! We did not hold back on anything. We ate well, tried to explore every day, entertained, and dined out an average of once per day. We took cabs downtown wherever the parking was bad. We left the motorhome and stayed in hotels for 7 nights
Friday, March 28, 2008
Update: We could not reach a deal. I depreciated the original MSRP for three years and made that offer. They said it was below wholesale and refused it. We ended up $3000 apart. We will keep looking.
I must add that working with J.P. and the Sales staff at Camping World in El Paso was a pleasant experience. They are not high pressure at all. We just agreed that I could (would) not go any higher and they could (would) not come any lower. We shook hands and parted on friendly terms.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
We arrived in El Paso, Texas (our first time in Texas!), checked into the Mission RV Park and went for breakfast at the local IHOP. The meal was fine but two things really struck us. First, a child started screaming soon after we sat down. This startled both of us as in five months in Mexico we had never heard a child scream anywhere except in play. I guess Mexicans take care of their children. The second thing was when the waitress dropped off our bill before we had finished eating. This also never happens in Mexico where it is considered extremely rude to give a customer a bill before he asks for it. The rule in Mexico is; when you sit at a table, that table is yours until you ask for, "La cuenta, por favor".
While we in the restaurant we talked to three people and mentioned that we had just returned from five months in Mexico. Two of the three commented that it was very dangerous in Mexico and asked if we had any trouble there. I answered that I had felt more threatened in the past two hours in the USA than I had in five months in Mexico and that is not an exaggeration. All three of these people were obviously of Mexican heritage. Welcome back to the "Bush Politics of Fear", Croft and Norma.
As we left the Migration Office at Kilometer 30 of Highway 45 after turning in our Temporary Vehicle Importation Hologramas and our Tourist Cards, we passed by an ambulance parked beside the building awaiting a call. The door was open so we said “Buenas Tardes” to the driver who responded in perfect English. He wanted to know where we lived and what we thought of his Country. He introduced the man beside him as a Doctor. That set me back as I know Canadian and American ambulances do not come equipped with a Doctor. I asked him if all Mexican Ambulances had a Doctor riding along and was told “all the time on certain highways and on others just on busy holidays”. This is just one more of the very progressive services they provide down here. It is amazing what Governments can fund when they are not paying billions to have troops out killing innocent people in all corners of the world!
When the Insurance Adjuster in San Miguel de Allende looked at the damage to the roof of the motorhome he told us that they would cover the repairs (less $500
Tuesday morning we finally contacted him. He looked up our file and told us to call him back when we got to the
We are very sad to be leaving
Today we visited Quinta Luz, the Museo de la Revolution here in the City of Chihuahua. Quinta Luz is the mansion Pancho Villa used as his house and offices after his appointment as Provisional Governor of the State of Chihuahua. It is a huge mansion near the historic Centro and is filled with furniture, clothing, saddles and other itemsl used by the General. After Pancho’s death in 1923, Luz Corral de Villa, the only one of a hilariously long list of Villa’s “wives” determined by the Courts to be his legal spouse, was allowed to stay in the house to live out the remainder of her life. When she died in 1981 the Government re-acquired the Estate and turned it into a museum of Francesco “Pancho” Villa’s life.
The most bizarre item on display is the bullet riddled 1922 Dodge Touring Car that Villa was riding in when he was assassinated on July 20, 1923. As he drove away from his bank in nearby Parral that day, Villa was attacked by eight men firing rifles from the second floor of a nearby house. Five of the seven men in the car were killed, including the Generalissimo. One of the survivors remembered Villa’s last words as, “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something important!” It has never been determined who ordered his murder.
A little side note. In a restaurant on Highway 45 we saw a very imposing painting of Pancho Villa. Under it was the inscription: “Pancho Villa, The Only Man Brave Enough to Invade the USA!”
OK, here it is. I know I am risking my credibility but here we go:
I believe in UFO’s.
There, I said it. I’m “out”. I am not so conceited as to think that our Earth is the only grain of sand on the beach to harbor “Life”. I know there has to be “others out there”. I am just waiting for them to drop by to say, “Buenas Dias”.
Today we passed beside the Zona del Silencio or, Zone of Silence. It is a barren area of land at the point where the Mexican States of
We finally gave up looking for a carpenter’s shop to get a wedge of 2x4 cut to repair the StarChoice dish. We had been watching the side of the road for telltale signs like piles of wood, signs, etc. but had found no trace of any. Yesterday morning one of the hotel maintenance guys was working outside motorhome so I went to chat with him. I asked him if he would be willing to do a small repair for us and that we would pay him for it. He said “No problem”. I showed him the broken dish and a traced pattern of the required piece of wood, telling him we simply needed a piece cut accurately from a 2x4 and that we would do the rest. At home this would be a two minute job for me. He looked at it for a while, asked a couple of questions and then said he could not do it. I asked why and he told me he had no saw, knew no one with a saw and had no idea where to find a 2x4.
Realizing now that if the job was to ever get done I would have to do it myself, we made a trip to the local WalMart where I purchased a hand saw and a cheap electric drill. I sacrificed one of the 2x6 blocks I use to ramp up one side of the motorhome when parked on a slope, marked it and cut my piece out with the hand saw. It was as good a fit as you could get with a fifty Peso saw and I used some construction adhesive we had in the trunk for emergencies to glue the piece in place on the back of the dish. I then placed it under the motorhome for the night to dry. Please no comments from my Carpenter friends. Jim, this means YOU.
Three Days Later........
It took a few more days to complete the repairs to the satellite dish. First, for some reason the construction adhesive failed to harden properly and remained somewhat elastic for a couple of days, even after baking in the sun. When it finally became hard enough that I thought I could work with it, I squeezed “Crazy Glue” into all the tiny gaps and cracks between the fiberglass body of the dish and the small piece that had broken off with the arm when the dish fell forward. This piece had already been glued on with the construction adhesive but I thought that because I was unhappy with the way the adhesive had dried, the more glue the better. I then set out to find a long wood screw to pass through the arm and into the block of wood I had added. Well, I was reminded once again that this is Mexico!
All I could find were 1 ½ inch screws that, after passing through the arm and the adhesive filled void between the arm and the wood, only went into the wood about a half an inch. This was not enough to hold the arm securely in place. I tried it and, as I suspected, the arm sagged a little as soon as its own weight was applied to the repair. This would not do. Today in Chihuahua I found a Ferreira (hardware store) and purchased a two Peso (eighteen cent) 2 ½ inch wood screw! Now we’re talking! I rushed my prize back to the RV, put the dish together with my new screw, found the signal and it worked perfectly! We are now watching Obama on Larry King! Go Obama!!!!!
EDIT: This repair is still holding in Winter 2010. The dish is permanently mounted on the garden shed beside the RV parking spot at home.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I have recently been searching the Internet for a reasonably priced replacement for our motorhome and have a couple of leads. One of them is El Monte RV Rentals which sells off their units after two or three years, depending on the mileage. They have some very nice 29 - 31 foot Class C's with one or two slides for what seems like a reasonable price and have sales offices in Nevada, California and Washington. The reason we would like to stay with a Class C is that we have decided to return to Mexico next winter where roads and RV Parks are a little easier to navigate with a slightly smaller unit and with the addition of a couple of slides, the newer Class C's have almost as much room as the Class A's.
The unit we have now, a 30 foot 1994 Tioga Class C is a former Cruise Canada Rental and we have had no serious complaints with it. It has pretty high mileage (195,000 Km's) so that factor, added to the fact that it has no slides, is prompting the change. Some extra "elbow room" would be nice as the year before last, between Winter in Arizona and taking the granddaughters to Alberta in the Summer, we spent almost eight months in it! The Canadian dollar is now at par and prices in the USA compared to Canada makes the decision to buy one down there a "no brainer". Used rentals are usually used a little harder than privately owned ones but also have much better maintenance and maintenance records. Our son in Victoria wants the old unit which he will use as a portable hotel room for his fencing business. He will fly down to pick it up wherever we buy a newer one. I will keep you informed.....
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The night before last we were parked under this tree! Early in the morning a fierce wind started blowing, rocking the motorhome. Suddenly there was a crashing sound and we looked out to see a huge branch had fallen off the tree, missing the motorhome but hitting the Honda parked beside it.
There is no serious damage, just a lot of scratches, most of which will come off with a good wash and waxing. We moved the motorhome over to the other side of the lot and waited the storm out. Our neighbors, from whom we were borrowing the StarChoice signal, decided to leave a couple of days early because of the storm so we are again without TV! I will have to get off my butt and get the dish fixed. If I was at home, it would be a five minute repair with the proper tools. Mind you, if I was home I could get the dish replaced for free under warranty.
Later in the day the winds died down and it warmed up. Zacatecas is back to normal.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
In Veracruz we had to park in a "sort of" legal spot about four blocks away from our hotel when we checked in as all the spots near the hotel were taken. As we walked up to the door of the hotel a car pulled out from a spot right in front of the hotel! I knew it would never last long enough for me to run back to get the car and Norma's offer to stand in it to hold it would not have worked with the aggressive Mexican drivers, so that was out. Suddenly a young man appeared holding a red rag. He is one of the many ambitious Mexican people who have created a job for themselves by "selling" parking spaces. They help you load your packages and stop traffic while you leave or back out of the space and then wave their flag to attract another car to "their" spot and guide them into it. This is all for small tips which they seem to get from people both coming and going.
I called him over and asked him to hold the spot for me while I went for the car. He understood and nodded, motioning for me to hurry! Norma stayed with him while I went back for the car. She said that she would never have stood a chance as he had to fight off three cars who wanted to park and in one case had to stand his ground as a more aggressive driver put his bumper right against his legs. The relief was evident on his face as I finally drove up and he helped me back into the tiny space, standing behind motioning which way to turn the wheel. We gave him $30 Pesos ($2.80 USA) which was about six times more than he usually gets but which he had more than earned! We left the car there for the next three days while we walked everywhere. If we had left the space we would never have found another in downtown Veracruz and few hotels provide parking, certainly none in our price range! When we pulled out to leave, the same young man was there to help us so he could "sell" our prime space to the next driver. Like many here in Mexico, he works long, hard hours for very little money. Good luck to him.
On our little side trip to Guanajuato where there is no logic to the narrow little streets going off in every direction, we hired a "Guide" to get us and the Honda to a parking lot near the Centro. We found one about six blocks from our hotel, intending to leave the car there for the two days we would be in Guanajuato. I did not inquire about the daily charge but did notice the short term rate was $10 Pesos per hour. When we picked the car up I handed the attendant $100 Pesos which I thought would more than cover the two days fee. Wrong! There was no long term or daily discount! It was $10 Pesos per hour 24 hours a day and our bill was well over $500 Pesos ($50 USA)! This is an outrageous amount in an area where the average wage is well under $100 Pesos a day. This would be equivalent to paying $700 or $800 to park for two days in downtown Vancouver! Well, I was not going to argue as I probably should have / could have bargained a better rate when I parked there but I did not. My fault. Live and learn. It is all part of the Mexico Experience and I love every minute of it (even the expensive ones)!
Monday, March 17, 2008
In other cases a left turn is made from the second most left hand lane. Here the extreme left lane is reserved for U-Turns ("Returno's") only. Sometimes if you are making a simple left turn from the left lane you get blasted by the person who is attempting to make a U-Turn from the second most left hand lane and is convinced that he has the right of way.
All these rules seem to be clearly logical and understood by locals. For us in our fifty foot long combination of motorhome and tow car it is impossible to know with any degree of certainty which lane we should be in in preparation for an upcoming left turn so for this reason we usually stay in one of the center lanes. When we get close enough to the intersection to see the particular method used it is important to remember to not use the turn signals to warn the people behind what you are going to do. This is because the instant they see your turn signal come on they accelerate to close the gap you were going to turn into. You simply have to change lanes without signaling and hope you do not get a ticket for doing so.
Driving in Mexico keeps you on your toes, especially when you consider that the posted speed limit is treated simply as a "suggestion" or "guideline" and is rarely followed, even by the police.
In Leon, we were parked in a Soriana Grocery store parking lot and wanted to take a cab downtown. I wanted to have our location marked on the city map before we abandoned the motorhome (so we could direct the cab back) so I walked over to a cop who was parked near us. He understood what I wanted and when I handed him the map, he confidently pointed to an intersection. I marked the map with a large "X" and asked him if that is where we were. He nodded, said "Si", pointed at the ground and again at the "X". After thanking him I walked back to the motorhome and started to have some doubts when I noticed a dead end street beside us did not match up to the "X" on the map. Some street corners in Mexico do not have signs for some reason so I walked a couple of blocks in both directions checking side streets and discovered we were actually about ten blocks from where the Policeman had told me we were. It was a good thing we discovered this because we still might still be looking for the motorhome!
Another time, near Mexico City, we were on a bypass road and got confused by an unmarked "Y" in the road we were on. Again, I stopped a cop and asked the way to San Miguel de Allende. He pointed confidently to the fork to the right. After a mile or two we passed a sign pointing to San Miguel that took us right back to the road that went to the left!
Here in Zacatecas I wanted to drive the car across town to the big grocery stores but I could not find our location on the city map to know where we had to come back to. Norma went over to the office of the hotel that owns and is attached to our RV Park and asked the English speaking receptionist to mark the location of the hotel on the map and to point out the direction we should take to the Soriana. When she came back and showed me it simply did not make sense. It did not go along with my usually dependable sense of direction. I took the marked map over to some neighbors who had been here a few days and showed it to them. They confirmed that we were in a totally different part of town than what was marked on the map and the Soriana was in a totally different direction. If we had followed the directions of the desk clerk we would have become hopelessly lost!
As I say, I do not believe it is intentional. Maybe Mexicans simply do not use maps and become confused when shown one but a good thing to remember is to always double check any directions you get and give them the "common sense test". Other than that, in Zacatecas, Mexico, Life Is Good!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Years later he was recruited by the opposition to the Government because of his fearlessness and brilliant military mind. He initially turned them down but later relented and was put in charge of the Division del Norte (Northern Division) of the rebel army.
Zacatecas was the headquarters of one of the last Government Military Divisions still loyal to President Huerta and they prepared to repel Villa's attack by establishing their defenses atop the nearby hill called "Le Bofa". This was a smart move as the hill is very steep and rocky and the 9,000 foot altitude would quickly tax the energy and resolve of any climbing attackers, while the defenders could simply stay put and fire down on them. The Government troops were well armed and supplied and from photos of the time, appeared to outnumber Villa's troops. What they did not plan for was the brilliant military tactics of Villa and the fearlessness (ruthlessness) of his followers, called "Villistas", who avoided wearing themselves out by transporting themselves, their horses and equipment to Zacatecas in commandeered railway cars. On June 23, 1914, Pancho Villa took the hill called "Le Bofa", leaving 7,000 dead and 5,000 wounded Government troops.
The first photo is the statue of Villa on horseback and the second is one of the few surviving photographs of the General. The third is two of his "Villistas" riding through the streets of Zacatecas after the battle and the last is one of the weapons used in the battle.
The "Arches" you see behind the hotel is a surviving section of one of the Aqueducts built in the Colonial days.
Friday, March 14, 2008
We got a cab and went down to the Centro to have a first look around. It is a typical Mexican city of 150,000 with the social areas surrounding the Church. It owes it's beginnings to silver mining from the Colonial days and the wealth generated by the silver is very evident in the Colonial architecture in the Centro. Silver is still being mined in the area keeping Zacatecas a wealthy city as can be seen by the buried power and telephone service throughout the city.
It was in Zacatecas in 1914 that Pancho Villa defeated a stronghold of 12,000 soldiers loyal to President Victoriano Huerta. This area holds much history of that period in Mexico's past that I will have to research and explore in our short week here.
Exploring is a little tough because we are over 8000 feet above sea level here!