Saturday, April 25, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

We got home last night after stopping at the glass store to set up an appointment to have the windshield replaced. I found out that I had taken the $500 glass deductible option on my insurance coverage so that will be another significant expense! Our maintenance costs have been very high for this trip but the motorhome is pretty much in "as new" condition after five thousand miles of Mexican roads.

The house is in good shape and was left spotless by our house sitter. It was a very bad winter here and there was a small leak in the roof caused when an ice dam formed around the eves on the back and the water was forced back under the roofing. It resulted in a water stain on the computer room ceiling and down one wall. The ceiling will have to be repainted and the walls painted after removing the decades old wallpaper off the room. It is a job that should have been done years ago anyway. I also have two shopping bags of mail to go through!

I will be winding the Blog down for now until we decide where and when we are going for this coming winter. Thanks for taking the trip with me, I have enjoyed telling you all about it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spokane, WA to Port Angeles, WA

We decided to drive to Port Angeles to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island. We have always had good luck going this way and have never been hassled for having a little too much booze on board. The lady inside my GPS did not want us to go that way and argued with us for a long time until I settled the argument by turning her off.

We got a late start from Spokane (11:00 AM) and burned up a lot of highway before arriving at the Seven Cedars Casino near Port Angeles. This is a nice casino and has an area for RVs to park. I put $2 in a penny machine and promptly won $15! Don’t worry, it didn’t last very long, I soon donated it back. Norma did a little worse, quickly losing her only remaining USA $20 bill and then losing the one she “borrowed” from me. We retired to the bar and watched a Ron White video. That guy is so funny!

We slept in a little and then started listing our purchases over the six months. We were allowed $750 each and were actually about $50 over. We had too much booze (again!) but just decided to be honest and hope for the best.

We caught the 2:00 PM ferry to Victoria and then arrived at Customs. We told him how much we spent and then he asked how much liquor we had on board. I told him we had a liquor cupboard with about ten bottles in it, all with varying amounts in them but no unopened bottles except one bottle of wine. He just laughed and said, “welcome home”.

We drove up the Malahat to our son’s place where he welcomed us home with a very expensive bottle of Single Malt which we sampled. It was a nice homecoming but I miss the Mexico sunshine!

Butte, MT to Spokane, WA

As we were leaving Butte this morning, we noticed a muffler shop and went in to have a sagging exhaust pipe fixed. This was a souvenir from tope #867. They welded the broken joint and added a hanger to prevent it from happening again. After putting the spare on the rear aluminum duals last night the now empty rim would not fit in the hanger under the MH as it has to have a tire attached. The muffler shop is also a tire store and happened to have a used Michelin the same size as ours. It was in good shape and since it will only serve as a spare so we had it mounted and tucked away under the rig. Another $107 and the job jar is getting empty.

Back on I-90 we came to a construction zone where they had closed one side of the highway and turned the other side into two way traffic. As we were driving along an overloaded dump truck came towards us and shed part of it’s load just as it passed. We are now the proud owners of two big new cracks in the windshield! We will need a new windshield and what do we do about the ten year Mexico permit stuck to the inside of the windshield? Will this never end?

There are a couple of problems with the motorhome that have to be fixed. The toilet valve leaks the odd time and has to be replaced and the slide needs adjusting and the seals checked. In the downpour in Dodge City the slide leaked badly and we had to bring it in. We did not bring it in however before the “wood” inside trim (particle board) got damp and swelled up. This will have to be replaced with real wood when we get home. It is a pretty simple job with the fancy new saw my son bought me last year. I suspect we might be packing too much weight in the bins under the slide. It will make Norma happy when they tell her this. Not! We arrived in Spokane too late to talk to one of the repair places in town so we pulled into the Wal Mart for the night and will phone some places at 8:00 to see if we can get in.

We found an RV repair place in the morning that took us right in. The leak problem in the slide dated back to the manufacturing process. They cut the upper rubber seal an inch too short so rather that cutting a new one, they simply left a half inch at each end with no seal. The rig has never been subjected to such a downpour with the slide open so it has not leaked until now. They fixed it with the addition of a couple of pieces of rubber. This repair has yet to be put to a serious test but I have noticed a breeze that came from the slide when I am driving is no longer there. Maybe this is a positive sign...

The toilet problem is also fixed. It was a bad valve and the cost to fix it would have been $235 USA and the cost to replace the entire toilet was only $279 so for the extra $40 we got a new toilet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Money Grows On Trees!

At least I hope it does right now! We developed a problem with the dolly tires that has only gotten worse with the sustained highway speeds (60 mph) we have been able to do since we crossed the border. Both tires were “scalloped” for some unknown reason even though they had less than 10,000 miles on them. I stopped at a tire store and was told they were ruined, probably from being out of balance and had to be replaced. I also had them put the spare on one of the outside rear wheels where I had clopped a curb in Mexico and cut the tire. It did not seem badly damaged and did not bulge so I let it go. When I showed it to the tire guy here in Butte, Montana he told me it was only a matter of time before it would burst and probably damage the siding on the MH. So, two new trailer tires and one tire change later I was out another $170 USA. At least there is no sales tax in Montana.

When I had the lube and oil done they noticed a sag in the exhaust pipe that needs a hanger so I am watching for a muffler shop now.

The toilet in the motorhome has a faulty valve that allows it to keep running and overflowing once in a while so I will have to get that fixed as well. It might be cheaper to just replace the toilet. We shall see.

Gas is slowly increasing in price as we move north. When we crossed the border it was $1.85, then $1.95 and now it is $2.05.

Sheridan, WY to Butte, MT

Today was another long day of Interstate driving. Long and boring with nothing to see. We passed a couple of places I would have liked to explore further like Custer’s Battlefield and Virginia City but we have to keep pressing on as we have to be back in Canada on the 24th. Canadians can only stay out of the country for six months less a day every year or we risk losing our free medical coverage. It is a small price to pay but it makes me keep my foot on the gas to get home in time.

I have to have someone take a look at the dolly tires.  They are developing a strange wear pattern, maybe the alignment is out after hitting half a million topes in Mexico.

Tonight will be another Wal Mart night. It is still quite cold at night (2 – 3 degrees F.) here but warms up to almost 80 in the daytime. With the fancy new TV in the bedroom I can cover up with the big quilt and watch Bones. Life is good!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Denver, CO to Sheridan, WY

Last night I asked Wal Mart if they did oil changes on motorhomes and was told they did. I had put almost 5000 miles on the Tioga in Mexico and another 1000 so far in the States so it was due. I pulled into the oversize bay promptly at eight this morning. The basic lube and oil for a MH is $50 including synthetic blend oil and a filter. They also installed a new air filter after showing me the old one with it’s collection of bugs, dirt, leaves, butterflies, rocks and grease so I paid just under $70 for everything after tax. Not too bad. After all was said and done our “free” night in the Wal Mart parking lot cost us almost $500 after a trip to the grocery store and last night’s new TV set.

We got away by nine and headed north to meet I-90 which we will follow to the coast. Gas is still (just) under $2.00 USA per gallon so that is nice. It was a long drive but the road was good to very good. There was some snow at the sides but the surface was clean and dry all the way to Sheridan, WY. We are in another Wal Mart and I am looking at a Burger King out front where I believe they have free WIFI. If you get this tonight it means I was successful. We drove about 500 miles today so I will be heading to bed to read and fall asleep soon. It has been a long day.

P.S. They do indeed have free WIFI so I ordered a coffee so it did not look like I was taking advantage of them. "Seniors" coffee is on sale for $0.27! Where can you get a coffee for twenty-seven cents? Not even Mexico!

Dodge City, KS to Denver, CO

I felt better heading out this morning after getting directions. The radio and TV were broadcasting dire warnings of Interstate Highway closures and I did not want to get stranded at the side of the road. The route we got was a good one. There was lots of snow at the side of the road where the snowplough had deposited it in the morning but the road was clean and dry all the way. We arrived in Denver just as the afternoon rush hour was beginning to form so we took the new toll Expressway. We pulled on it and hit a toll booth which charged us $7.50 USA ($2.50 plus $2.50 for each additional axle). I thought that was a little high as we were only going less than twenty miles on it but what the heck, I was avoiding the freeway madhouse through town.

We just got up to speed when we saw a sign informing us that the next toll booth was in 3 1/2 miles! We stopped and paid another $7.50 and asked the guy how many more there were between there and our exit on I-25. “One more”, he said, so it cost us $21.50 USA total. Worse than Mexico!

We drove another fifty miles north of Denver and found a Wal Mart to boondock in. Whoever said boondocking in Wal Mart is free should follow us for a day. Somewhere in Mexico the little TV in the bedroom developed a problem and refused to accept a signal from the 75 ohm TV cable input on the back. We had to hook it up to StarChoice with the two audio/video jacks. Now that we were in the states and using cable and off air signals, we had a problem. Wal Mart had a very nice Sharp 19 inch LCD, Digital HDTV on sale for only $198 so I had to buy one. The old TV went into the dumpster and the new one is beautiful! It found three off air digital high definition stations and the picture is Chrystal clear! Sweet!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Help From Escapees

I put out a call for help in finding the best (hopefully snow-free) route home on Escapees, a forum I am a member on, and got some advice from Mike, who lives near Dodge City. Mike says:

"Your best bet is to go west on US 400/50 to Lamar, then go north on US 287 to Limon. At Limon get on I70 to Denver and get on I270 north to I25. Stay on I25 to Buffalo Wyoming where I25 merges with I90. Stay on I90..."

This is what I will do. It saves going through Salt Lake City where my GPS wanted to send me. This means I will miss having coffee with Heidi, an old high school friend. Maybe next year Heidi.

Denver Dilema

To get home from Dodge City we have to go through Denver, CO. There is no easy way around it without getting into worse weather. Right now it is snowing in Denver with a couple of feet expected by tomorrow morning. Denver is about 600 KM away, a full day's drive. The Denver weather is supposed to improve by noon tomorrow and then warm up rapidly after that. All this means we should stay put here in Dodge City and leave early tomorrow (Saturday) morning to hit Denver late in the day when the roads have been cleared and it is warming up. It is raining in Dodge with no sign of it ending so it is going to be a wet drive.

After Denver is Salt Lake City which is also known to have snow in April. My friend Les is in SLC now and is having fun in the snow. SLC is next, after Denver. Traveling is a very scientific process.

I wish I was doing what Steve Cotton is doing right now and driving to Mexico. He is retired and moving lock, stock and barrel from Oregon to Mexico. Not a bad life! Better than trying to find a way through Denver in the snow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dodge City

Dodge City was the Wild West! It was the point where the huge cattle drives from Texas met with the Santa Fe Railroad. It was at this point where George M. Hoover, a Canadian, dropped the tailgate of his wagon full of liquor to become the first saloon in what was to become Dodge City. The town was very wild by nature because it was here where Texas cowboys mixed with railroad men, farmers and the prostitutes, gamblers and gunfighters who were attracted to the area because of the huge amounts of money changing hands and being spent. This was the Wild West!

Many infamous characters of the Old West assembled in Dodge, some of them at times working on both sides of the law at the same time. Here is a painting of many of them who formed the “Dodge City Peace Commission”:


They are: Back Row (L to R) - W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson (another Canadian). Front Row (L to R) - Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

Front Street has been rebuilt after being torn down by Dodge City in the 70’s in the name of Urban Renewal and The Longbranch is again open serving ice cold beer and Sarsparilla to thirsty travelers.

The Longbranch and Front Street.

blog longbranch

Black Jack, first resident of Dodge City’s Boot Hill:

black jack bw

Just plain, good advice!


Hanging On The By Fingertips in Dodge City!

We are in Dodge City, Kansas and checked into the Gunsmoke RV Park. The good news is: the WIFI is great here! It works right from the RV and is giving me 18 – 24 mbps speed. The bad news is, the wind is so strong we can hardly open the side door without it being ripped out of our hands! We are rocking and rolling in the prairie wind and looking forward to a night of the same. I hope I do not get seasick.

The drive here on Kansas 400 was great. It is a well maintained secondary highway, divided for the first fifty miles or so. We stopped for lunch in a little roadside diner (Rick’s) where the grilled cheese sandwiches are only $2.75. The price of gas is much more reasonable than it was when we came down. It ranges from $1.84 to $1.99 per gallon. Without doing the conversion, I believe this compares favourably with the $7.70 Pesos per litre in Mexico. A tank full now costs me around $85 USA instead of the $200 I paid once in October in California!

Watching the Weather Channel it looks like it is going to be very cold all the rest of the way home. We had planed to travel through Denver, CO but they are expecting snow. Salt Lake City, our usual route also has snow. It is not even an option to stay here in Dodge as they are flashing warnings of thunderstorms on the TV right now with two inches of rain tonight and the next county over is going to get half dollar sized hailstones! We will have to run downtown to walk Front Street and Boothill tomorrow before the rain starts.

Speaking of Front Street, the City of Dodge in their wisdom tore down the original old west Front Street in the early 70’s in a dumb attempt at “Urban Renewal”! All the original buildings and boardwalks walked by the Earps, Luke Short, Bat Masterson and the rest of the gang so carefully preserved up to that point were torn down and burned in the name of “progress”! Front Street has since been rebuilt as a tourist attraction but it is not the same.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oklahoma City, OK to Wichita, KS

We got a late start today after Norma had a fingernail job in the mall this morning. I used the time to service the RV batteries. Distilled water is very difficult to get in Mexico. Some auto parts stores carry it in 500 ml bottles for quite a bit of money. It is Bardahl brand and imported from England. I guess the locals just use tap water… Anyway Wal-Mart carries distilled water in gallon bottles for seventy-five cents in the USA. Note to self: take a bottle to Mexico next time! The batteries took a half litre and I washed the tops off before sealing them up under the stairs again.

While I was in the store I bought an LED taillight kit for the car dolly. One side has been out for several months but I didn’t worry about it as we never drive at night in Mexico and the motorhome signal lights are clearly visible from behind. I will probably wait until we get home to install them. They were $49 USA in Wal-Mart and are over $100 in Canada. I also bought a couple of  Stanley slot screwdrivers. Would the person who has the few dozen screwdrivers I have lost in the last 65 years please return them!

It was cool last night (7 degrees Celsius) that made it easy to sleep under the heaviest quilt. We have three quilts – light, medium and heavy. We are acclimatized to Mexico weather or otherwise the medium would have been fine.

We took off towards Kansas and stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant for lunch. I had the catfish (man, I love that stuff), and Norma had meatloaf. We both cleaned our plates which is normal for me but really something for Norma!

We stayed on I-35 north into Kansas with a stop at the Welcome Centre. We decided to head off the beaten path and explore Dodge City, KS. We will head that way tomorrow but tonight we are in a Sam’s Club parking lot in Wichita tonight watching TV and dining on McDonalds. Life is Good!

Austin, TX To Oklahoma City, OK

Not much to say about the drive today. Almost 700 KM of Interstate covered in a little over eight hours. There were a couple of accidents to slow us down a little and a stop at the Oklahoma Welcome Centre to stock up on maps and books. Otherwise we pushed straight through. We are about 40 KM South of the city at a Wal-Mart where we will spend the night and decide if we want to stay another night in an RV park to explore the city.

I did a little experiment with the new solar panel in the morning. With the sun well up although not overhead, I can leave the TV on without draining the batteries at all. In other words the solar power being delivered to the batteries is relatively equal to the power being consumed! When I got up the batteries were at 12.6 volts. I turned on the TV and watched the voltage carefully. It stayed at 12.6 for well over an hour. Good deal!

There is no Internet here so I will post this when I can.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wildflower Centre

We visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre today. There was an Easter Egg Hunt and a Plant Sale on so it was quite busy. A slight wind made photography difficult but it was well worth the $6.00 admission each for seniors! Our main complaint was the small size of the centre.








Austin City Limits

Austin is known as the “Live Music Capitol of The USA” for good reason. The downtown area is full of small bars where the greats played. Antoine's on 5th has seen BB King, Junior Walker, Fats Domino, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and most of the rest. Just down the street is Cedar Street Courtyard, a great jazz bar. There are many more but since it is Sunday we knew they would not be open. We took a drive down there today to have a look at them anyway. For the most part they are small dinky places you would probably not even take a second look at. In Austin, it is all about the music, not the venue. I will have to come back when we can spend some more time sampling the music.

Below is the Mean Eyed Cat where Johnny Cash once performed.




New Roof Tested

We paid our bill and left our free parking place at Camping World at about 1:00 pm and headed for Austin, TX. It was a very short drive up I-35 and we checked into the Austin Lone Star RV Resort about five miles from downtown. It is a Passport America park but of course there is no reduction on the weekends so we are paying $50 for Saturday night and $40/2=$20  for Sunday night. They charge for Internet as well but give out a free four hour “Trial” that I will use Sunday night to send this out.

We were awoken in the middle of the night by a downpour! It has been a long time since I have seen rain come down like this and it was a good test for the new roof. It held up admirably and no “wet spots” on the ceiling.

Today Norma wants to go and see the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre near the RV park. The centre was started by the former Presidents wife and actress Helen Hayes in 1982 to protect and preserve Texas’ native plants. I will take my macro lens and see what I can photograph.

The New Roof!

We snuck into the shop while the roof was being installed and noticed a couple of problems. There were several bubbles along one side that I did not like as well as one spot over the passenger seat where it looked like the rubber had been “bunched” up and folded. We pointed these out to J.D.. the service manager and he agreed with us that it was not acceptable. The workers spent a little more time and fixed these problems. When we got back in and started testing things we found a blown fuse and that got fixed as well.

The replacement solar panel is a 123 watt panel which they wired into my old controller. I noticed the controller was rated for only seven amps and under direct sunlight this new panel is capable of putting out ten amps. This is not a good situation so I went to the Camping World store looking for a new controller. They had a ten amp unit which would work well for $69 but their thirty amp unit was on sale for only $79 so I bought the larger one. If I ever want to add another panel this unit will easily handle it. It comes with a flush mounted panel that I can use to monitor performance and also to cover a small nick I put in the wall during the installation of the original panels last summer. I thought I got away with this as Norma did not notice the damage right away. I should have known better… she discovered it not long after we left for Mexico.

The roof was finished Friday afternoon and they moved the motorhome into their free parking area so we could sleep in it. They wanted us to wait until Saturday afternoon to drive it as the Dicor was still quite tacky and could have been moved by the wind. This was no problem as we had electric and the rooftop batwing TV antenna picked up several local channels.

We got a copy of the bill and it was just under $8000 USA, a little higher than the estimate but reflected a couple of things that we asked them to add. The insurance should pay about $7400 after the deductible and I am happy with this. Because of Camping world’s error in quoting for a solar panel they did not have in stock we ended up with more than double the solar capacity we had before at no charge. This was a nice little bonus.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Update On Repairs

The new roof is on and the glue is drying! They should have the A/C, solar panel and everything else installed and sealed today and then it just has to sit still for another day to let everything dry before we can drive it. They say they will move it to the overnight area and plug it in so we can sleep in it tonight and save $70 on the hotel. We have not seen it yet but we are heading out there soon. The phone has not rung so I hope all is well. I will report tonight from Camping World parking lot.

Also, the insurance company has not emailed us the actual document authorizing repairs. They told us over the phone that it had been approved and to go ahead and they would follow it up by emailing us. They have not done so yet......

MORE: Camping World finished the job. They quoted us for a 80 watt solar panel but when they needed it all they had was a 125 watt panel so we got the larger one for the same price! Bonus time. It looks like a pretty good job but we can see a couple of "waves" in the rubber near the edges. They say that will go away once the sun has been on it for a few days. If not, their guarantee is good at any Camping World store. Likewise, no one was sure what size A/C was on the rig so they put a 1500 watt on it. It feels at least as cool as the old one.

They want us to stay here in the parking lot until tomorrow afternoon to be sure the Dicor has dried well and then we can hit the road. Well, after we pay for the repairs! The cheque should be waiting for us when we get home...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gruene Hall

We took a short side trip from San Antonio today to the tiny town of Gruene (pronounced “Green”), a registered Historic Town. It started out as a cotton farm in 1872 and has “gently resisted change” since then. The town is dotted with gift and antique shops but the main attraction is the Gruene Hall, a real Texas Honky-tonk!

They have all played here! The walls are covered with autographed photos of the greats. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Clint Black, Leon Russel and hundreds more C&W greats. There were also Blues legends like Keb Mo, Albert Johnson, BB King and Buddy Guy. The place reeks of music history!

One small local band played here every Thursday for years, taking the odd break to try to make it in Nashville. After several years they announced their final attempt, saying, “This is the last try. If we don’t make it this time we are giving up”. That singer was George Strait.




This has nothing to do with Gruene, I just like cacti.


San Antonio Riverwalk

Everyone has heard of the Riverwalk, it has become synonymous with San Antonio. Last night we took a cab to the Riverwalk for dinner and a night out. We stopped and made a reservation at Boudro’s and then walked on to Jim Cullum’s Landing, a jazz cafe further down the walk. The music was great and the margaritas were half price. We got a table on the walkway and people watched for an hour until our table was ready for dinner.

Boudro’s is a very nice restaurant and the prices reflect this. But what the heck, it is the San Antonio Riverwalk! Splurge a little! Norma had the Rib Eye Steak and I had Grilled Tuna. I asked for it medium rare and that is what I got. It was very pink on the inside and was delicious! I have tried cooking tuna myself and have over cooked it every time. This one was very good. With one glass of wine each and no desert the bill was $75 before tip. One whole day's budget in Mexico!

After dinner we walked back to the jazz bar for an Irish Coffee that was also half price. The live music had stopped by this time so after one Irish Coffee we continued on to the Hilton where there was a piano player doing his repertoire of Jim Croce songs. We stopped for a drink and had a great conversation with the waitress who was looking for a good spot in Mexico to hold her wedding. After a nice chat and offering a couple of suggestions we found a cab and made our way back to the hotel. It was a great evening.

The Riverwalk is nice although if pressed, I would have to say the Monterrey N.L. Riverwalk is nicer. Add a few more restaurants to the Mexican version and it would be a hands down winner. Anyway, this one is nice and it is one more thing checked off my “To Do” list.


riverwalk riverwalk1


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Work Is Started

The motorhome is in the shop at Camping World and they are already stripping the roof off. It will be locked up in the shop until the new roof is installed so we will have to stay in a hotel for a few nights. We found one near the Riverwalk for a couple of nights until the higher weekend rates cut in and then we will move out closer to Camping World in New Brufels, north of San Antonio. Tonight and tomorrow we explore San Antonio some more!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Insurance Company Comes Through!

Just before closing time tonight our Mexican insurance company gave us the OK to take the motorhome in for repairs. To top it off, they also authorized replacement of the air conditioner! Their original refusal was reversed and they have now agreed to pay the $1000 USA to replace the A/C. We went through a few hours of telephone tag and then the old “I got your email but there were no attachments” thing but eventually Erika in Mexico City got all the documents she needed to take in to her boss and the decision was made! She called us with the news about ten minutes before closing time!

Many thanks again to Chris in Monterrey who helped us get the whole claim going. Thanks to Carolina in San Javier Insurance in Nogales and thanks to Erika  in Mexico City who got us our final approval. We had a lot of help and it resulted in everything falling into place in time. A job well done!

First thing tomorrow we will call Camping World, the low bidder, and make arrangements to take the motorhome in. They say they are keeping a bay open for us! Stay tuned! With any luck we will be home before our medical Insurance runs out!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Alamo

You can’t go to San Antonio without visiting The Alamo. It is even listed in the “Attractions” section of my GPS so we set it and off we went. It is 8.1 miles from the RV park and we were there in about ten minutes. I was surprised to find the monument in the centre of town, I expected it to be out in the country. I guess San Antonio was not as big a city in 1836.

Entry to the monument is free due to a law passed many years ago to ensure Texans or “Texians” as they were called before Statehood, can visit the symbolic birthplace of their independence from Mexico without financial impediment. This law obviously does not deter the many souvenir hawkers from plying their trade inside the walls where everything from tacky “Alamo” earrings to children's “Cowboy and Indian” games that have nothing to do with the story of The Alamo can be purchased for inflated prices. John Wayne’s movie “The Alamo” is in perpetual showing in a theatre across the street.

It was here that for thirteen days ending March 6, 1836 that two hundred “Texians”, including frontiersmen David Crockett and Jim Bowie, held off Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and an unknown number of (but at least 1000) Mexican soldiers sent to defend what was still part of Mexico against the “Texian” Revolutionaries. The battle ended in the pre-dawn hours of March 6, 1836 when the Mexican army stormed the defences and overwhelmed the defenders. After the penetration of the walls the actual fight lasted only about forty five minutes and was over by sunrise when the Mexican flag once again flew over the Mission (as depicted in the sketch from the time below).





I bought My Lens

I finally replaced the telephoto lens I lost in Palenque! I have been watching eBay for some time but not seriously bidding. In San Antonio I visited a camera shop to get a better idea of what these lenses were worth and today I sat down with eBay for a while. I did a search and sorted by ending times. I then found a suitable lens that was nearing the end of it’s auction and was under priced.

When shopping on eBay you really have to do your research and know what the item is worth. Many get caught up in the bidding process and end up paying more than the retail price of a new item. Set a maximum bid that you are comfortable with and do not exceed it.

I found a Nikon brand 70 – 300, f4 – 5.6 autofocus “G” type lens that had a top bid of $40 and fifty minutes to go. This is obviously not a top of the line lens but my vision is no longer top of the line either! At 30 minutes I bid $45 and was immediately outbid. At 15 minutes I bid $51 and was again outbid. At 4 minutes I bid $70 and won the lens for $69.49. After shipping charges and insurance the total was $94.49 USA, a very good deal, a little more than half of what it would cost new from a New York mail order dealer after shipping. I am very proud of myself and the lens will be waiting for me when I get home. My wish list is almost empty.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Border Crossing

The border crossing into the USA was time consuming but went well. We were stopped on the Mexican side by a bunch of soldiers. One of them came up to the window and said something in Spanish. I explained that my Spanish was poor so he just smiled and, in a loud voice, said, “Inspection!”. I laughed and told him I knew what that meant and he laughed back. I opened the door and they had a quick look inside.  Another soldier was pointing at the Honda door so I walked back and asked if he wanted to look in it. He said no and told me the door was not locked and that it was dangerous to not lock a vehicle in the USA.

We stopped at the Banjercito to get the six month permit removed from the Honda (the motorhome is good for ten years) and then found the Migration Office and turned in our FMT’s. We made our way across the Rio Grande and entered the USA. They stopped us and told Norma she had to go through the regular entry point while I and the motorhome had to go through the truck entry.

After a short interview, I was handed a slip of paper saying I had been selected for an “Intensive Inspection”. I was directed to the X-Ray building where I parked the motorhome and walked back outside the building. After a very slow scan they went in for a look. They came out and told me I had prohibited items. When I asked what they were, I was told pork, eggs and fruit. I asked if I could just throw them out and was told no, that was not allowed and that I now had to go through an agricultural inspection.

They removed the food items as well as a potted plant that we were given by John, who we had met in Mexico. I asked if I could at least keep the pot and after a moment of deliberation, he said “OK”. Sorry John, the plant was doing really well.

All this took over an hour before I finally made it through and picked up Norma who had been waiting in the blazing sun all this time. I was actually happy to see the increased inspections. The flow of drugs and guns has to be stopped and an hour of my time was little sacrifice.

X-Ray Booth

x ray

Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo

**Sorry, some of the entries will be out of order. The excitement and tension of the days following the accident have made it difficult to think about my blogging.

After our friend Chris came to our rescue with his fluent Spanish skills and local knowledge to help us manoeuvre through the Mexican bureaucracy, he offered to show us around Monterrey, his adopted home.

After a great lunch we drove through the very modern and large city center. Our trip took us to the Municipal Palace and to the Parque Fundidora, a steel mill that was purchased from Chicago, disassembled and reassembled in Monterrey and worked for many years. When it finally closed in the 80’s the city decided to turn an eyesore into a unique park. The grounds are filled with statues, ponds and monuments, some reusing parts of the steel mill. The main oven is now a museum and the grounds have become part of the famous Monterrey River Walk.

After walking a portion of the River Walk we took a boat ride to see the rest of it. It is a beautiful waterway passing many attractions, children’s displays and restaurants. This area demands another visit when we can spend more time exploring it.



Oven 3 Museum


Steel Pot in a new life


Not Bad Scenery! Perfect Weather As Well!


Chris and Norma

chris and norma

What It Cost

Here is a breakdown of what we spent in Mexico. We were in the Country for 144 days. I am not including our costs in the USA getting to and from Mexico and I am not including any maintenance and repair costs for vehicles. Clothing we purchased in Mexico is not included either because Norma did most of that and she will not tell me how much she spent. It is in Canadian dollars. To convert to USA dollars, multiply by .82

Fuel - Motorhome $1948 $13.50
Fuel - Honda $323 $2.25
MH Propane $74 $0.51
Highway Tolls $795 $5.52
RV Parks $3185 $22.11
Admissions & Tours $476 $3.30
Dining Out $2732 $19.00
Groceries $2530 $17.60
Liquor $625 $4.34
Hotels (Chiapas) $165 $1.15
Taxis $102 $0.71
Telcel Cards $40 $0.27
Insurance (Medical) $1408 $9.77
Insurance (MH) $580 $4.03
Insurance (Honda) $198 $1.37
TOTALS $15,180 $105.43


This is about $20 per day more than last year. The Peso has fallen badly against the USA dollar and many businesses have raised their prices because of this. The Canadian dollar has not kept pace!Many RV parks were charging in USA dollars. Gas has gone up about 10% over last year as well. We put a lot more miles on the motorhome as we drove all the way around around Mexico this year and spent less time in each location. We boondocked less, probably only ten nights, if that.

Groceries seem a little high. I tried to separate actual food out of our purchases but a few other things like soap, TP, personal hygiene and some other stuff snuck in there as well. Maybe a little liquor as well.

Still, $105 Canadian or about $80 USA per day is a cheap vacation! You could not do this staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, covering the ground we did!

We lived well and did not hold back on anything. We dined out an average of once a day or more and went to the nicer restaurants. We entertained a lot in the RV parks. We left the motorhome behind when we visited Chiapas and stayed in a hotel on the Centro for three nights. We lived well!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Remembering A Hero


This day in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered. Had he lived he would have been 80. He probably would have still been alive. He would have been a leader and we would have been better off for it.

There are many days in our lives that we remember vividly. I remember the day that Dr. King was murdered. I also remember the days we lost JFK, RFK and Malcolm X and these memories have made me a sadder person. These senseless acts of violence in another country have affected my life.

Have we learned anything in the past 41 years? Have we moved past those bigoted times? Are we better as a Nation? Are we better as individuals?

In 2008 the USA elected a black man as President. That is one indication. Unfortunately, the same people who voted Barak Obama into office took away the rights of millions of people, black and white, with another stroke of the same pen. The Same Sex Marriage laws of two States were overturned that day. People who love each other and want to share their lives are prevented from doing so. The bigotry is still alive but has shifted to another component of our society. The sand is being kicked in someone else's face.

One huge step forward followed by an equally huge step backward. Martin would have been proud and sad at the same time. As am I.

Something died in all of us on April 4, 1968. The Dreamer is dead but The Dream will live on.



Friday, April 3, 2009

A Little Treat

In an attempt to cheer ourselves up today we bought a steam Espresso and Cappuccino maker. We have enjoyed cappuccinos in coffee shops for a while now but have never been able to make them at home. Now we can. It is quite a simple operation.

Tomorrow we will start to enjoy San Antonio. A trip to the River Walk is in the plans as well as a visit to the Alamo.

The Estimates are Sent!

I emailed all three estimates to Mexico City for them to choose one. They range from $7000 to $8500 and I am sure they will pick the cheapest which is actually from Camping World. I was sure they would be the most expensive but not so. The economy must be hurting them. Now we wait....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Further on the Insurance Claim

Well, the Mexican Insurance Company has decided in their wisdom that they will not pay to replace the air conditioning unit. They claim that I have no proof that the unit itself was damaged because I did not pick the pieces up off the highway. They say that 1) the unit may have been repairable and 2) I have no real proof that there ever was an air conditioner on the roof.

When I climbed up on the roof after the accident, the air conditioner was laying on top of the smashed solar panels. After being ripped out of the roof by the contact with the overpass, it was rolled halfway down the length of the RV, squashed between the roof and the overpass. It was obviously not repairable and when I threw it to the sidewalk, the two policemen carried it over to the side and told us to leave it there, that someone would get rid of it. Sure enough, by the time I realized that I should have at least taken a photo of it and went back, it was gone. The insurance company says I should have somehow saved it as evidence.

I have asked my insurance agent for help in negotiating with Mexico City but have not heard back from her. I told her that if she was not successful in having them include the A/C unit in the claim, to have them at least pay for the installation of a new unit that I will pay for. Even if the old unit was repaired, they would still have to reinstall it. This seems reasonable to me but I am not the insurance company. We shall see what happens…….

Pearsall, TX.

Ever heard of Pearsall, Texas? Neither had I but evidently it is the home of the World’s Largest Peanut! I found this out as we were heading into town to the Wal Mart store to ask if we could sleep in their parking lot. They very graciously gave us permission and we spent a not so quiet night with a reefer running across the street.

We got up very early (around 6) and headed for San Antonio. I have to get three estimates for repairs there and email them to the insurance company. I will report.