Sunday, May 31, 2009
The microwave convection oven was delivered to the repair shop in Okanagan Falls on Friday afternoon and Al at Advance RV Repair says he will get it installed Monday. On Tuesday we will head across the Rocky Mountains, spending one night somewhere along the way and arrive in Edmonton on Wednesday. We will park in front of my brothers house and then pick up my sister at the Edmonton airport on Thursday. It will be a pretty hectic few days and I don't know when I will be able to post next but I will take photos and report when I can!
Friday, May 29, 2009
I went to see my Financial Adviser the other day and he did his best to reassure me. He tells me the market will rebound as it always does and that patience is a virtue here as in other things. He described what is happening now as "the eye of the storm" and that, in his opinion, the graph of the market will eventually come out shaped like a "W" and we are approaching the half way point (or the eye of the storm) now. He believes things will take one more fall before starting the final climb out of the abyss. The USA's credit rating will likely be reduced because of their massive debt, more banks could fail and the American auto industry will experience bankruptcies. He suggested I could take some profits out before that happens but the "profits" he refers to are not really profits at all but merely the partial recovery of what I had in there to start with. I am still a long way below my high point and I am not about to start selling dollar bills for eighty cents if I don't have to.
In his opinion what we are seeing now is a "Dead Cat Bounce", a market term derived from the notion that "even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great enough height".
I am actually in a pretty good position to ride out this storm as I do not need the money that is in there for daily living. I have a very good Union pension which will become even better by another four hundred and some a month when I turn 65 next year and Canada's Old Age Pension kicks in. Meanwhile there are a few things we have to delay, like a trip to Europe, but things could be worse and for many, they are. Right now I have a good excuse to not go out for expensive dinners....
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The microwave we ordered from the USA should be delivered to the repair place in OK Falls today or tomorrow and it will be installed by Monday. On Monday we will head across the water and drive the car up to the Okanagan to pick up the motorhome and carry on to Edmonton.
On one hand I am looking forward to this trip as I will get to see my sister and one of my nieces from the Toronto area and all my other relatives from Alberta. We always have a good time when we get together. On the other hand I am not looking forward to the graveyard scene when we bury my brother's ashes. Some folks that will be there are religious in the worst "preaching at you" kind of way. I always have to hold my tongue when they are around and I know this time will be worse. When they are around the dinner is always cold by the time all the "Graces" and prayers are finished and I am fidgiting in my seat, not having the nerve to walk out. "It would be rude", my dear wife says. "Well, it's rude for them to make me go through this", I counter. "I don't keep them from eating for a half hour while I tell them all about my Atheism. That would be just plain rude". Anyway, I will get through it all one more time. Pray for me. (Just kidding!)
Monday, May 25, 2009
1) All roads lead to Mexico City.
2) Nobody wants to drive through Mexico City.
This leaves travelers in a bit of a delima. Mexico City is a traffic nightmare of twenty million people, almost the population of all of Canada! There are rules in place that allow certain license plates on the road on certain days. The question arises that when your motorhome is towing a car, which plate must conform? The towing vehicle, the car or both? It is hard to get an answer. This is known as the Hoy No Circula ("today it does not circulate") rules. Also, a vehicle testing procedure has been put in place to keep emissions under control. Every vehicle driving in Mexico City must have one of these stickers.
Our Mexican friend tells these rules do not apply to visitors, only to vehicles with DF plates. He says the best time to drive through the city is in the middle of the night (3 or 4 am) on a weekday. Our friend says he would be willing to go with us and even drive the rig for us and then take a bus back home, "Esto no es problema" (This is no problem) he says. I truly believe our friend would have no problem as he is a former Federale and Government Prosecutor. If he got stopped I KNOW he would have no problem. But what would my excuse be when a Trafico asks me what I think I am doing driving a vehicle with no pollution sticker on the wrong day of the week? I don't think "My friend said it would be OK" would get me very far.
Fortunately, a new highway called the Arco Norte (Northern Arch) is being built that will bypass Mexico City to the North and East. It will leave Highway 57 just South of Queretaro and will meet Highway 150D just East of Puebla (it will also continue to the West to provide a very nice bypass of the city). This will be a great relief to us because trying to find a way around Mexico City consumed a lot of our time last year.
The problem is finding out anything about the progress of this construction. It was suposed to be finished by April, 2009 but no one seems to be able to confirm this. There are some sections open and there are some nice photos of these sections on the internet. The problem is, these isolated sections end in the middle of nowhere with no easy way to get from one to another. I hope this highway will be completed by the time we need it this winter!
Glen from the Blog Palapa Life has provided a Link to a map of the new Arco Norte on Google Maps.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
We returned to this restaurant at around six and ordered dinner. As we were eating a distinguished looking gentleman sat in a booth across from us. He was soon joined by a couple more men and they drank coffee while enjoying a friendly conversation. After a while he ordered an interesting ice cream dish. We had finished our meal as well and had ordered coffee. I said to Norma that I would like to order the same dish if only I knew what it was called. The gentleman overheard me and asked in perfect English if he could order one for me. I thanked him and told him I would appreciate it very much.
When we finished and got up to leave we went over to his table to thank him again. His name was Salvador and it turned out that he was from Leon and had gone to the local university and got his Mechanical Engineering Degree. He then moved to Michigan where he worked in the auto industry for over thirty years. After he was "downsized" he returned to his beloved Mexico. The two friends with him (both named Juan) were childhood friends.
Salvador is able to live quite well in Leon on his pension and keeps occupied by playing in a small local jazz band. He is very friendly and reminded us very much of our old friend and colleague, Jim Fulton who was the NDP Member of Parliament and Norma's boss for many years in Terrace, BC where she worked as his Constituency Assistant.
We had a great conversation over a cup of coffee and we went away with a better understanding of the Mexican people. It was one of those chance encounters that stays with you.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
It was in our first week or two in Mexico last year. I was walking around the Centro one day looking for photo opportunities. I passed a shoe shine stand tended by an older gentleman waiting for a customer. This is a town where kids wear running shoes and tourists wear sandals so customers were few and far between. He smiled and responded to my nod (I did not know the Buenas Dias / Buenas Tardes rules back then and did lots of nodding, the universal language).
I stopped to look at a statue at the end of the Centro. It was of a distingushed looking man holding an open book. I was trying to read the inscription when a voice beside me said, "He is a teacher". I turned and there was my nodding acquaintence, the shoe shine man. He was a very tall man and appeared to be in his late sixties. He carried himself proudly and I could see that he had been in good shape all his life. He explained to me that school teachers are very important people in Mexico and that they have a very important job. His English was excellent. I looked over at his simple stand and he said that his friend was watching it for him. We chatted for a few minutes about his village and than he went back to his work.
Unsatisfied with our brief encounter, I went back to the Centro the next day. Again, he came over to talk to me as soon as he saw me. He was a retired Government worker and loved to find people to practice his English on. He and his wife had several children who all had families of their own so it was just him and his wife. She was occupied with the grandchildren and he spent most days supplementing his pension by shining shoes in the Centro. When we parted, I reached out to shake his hand. He withdrew his hand, saying it was very dirty from his shoe shining. I took his hand anyway and gave it a firm shake. He was the kind of person you would treasure as a friend. I am sorry that I do not remember his name.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
It was a whirlwind trip and I covered the 700 KM in nine hours including a one and a half hour ferry ride! It was nice driving the Honda. For a twenty year old car with 250,000 KM on it it still runs well and gave me 36 miles to the Canadian gallon. I am paying attention to mileage now because I am getting the "chip" in the motorhome reprogrammed in an effort to improve the dismal mileage of 6.2 miles to the USA gallon or 7.5 miles to the Canadian gallon that I have been getting. I talked to the guy who will be doing the work and he is sure he can make an improvement. A friend of mine had his Class A Winnebago Ford V-10 done by this guy and his mileage improved from an average of 8.5 up to an average of 10.5 miles per USA gallon. That is an increase of over 20%! I would be very happy if he can do that for me.
It looks like we acted too quickly in the case of replacing the microwave. A commenter on a previous Blog entry tells me he called Apollo and they sent him a new latch assembly which he installed himself! It is too late to stuff that toothpaste back into the tube as the microwave is in shipment to Canada. Maybe I will call them and see if they can send me the part and I can sell the microwave here.
I passed the problem off to her after getting the name of an Apollo dealer in the States. She called them, got a number for Apollo and talked to them. She ended up ordering a direct replacement for the broken oven and it will be shipped directly to the dealer in Okanagan Falls, BC where the motorhome is now parked. With any luck the oven will arrive and will be installed by the time we get back to it in 10 or 12 days.
On Edit: It has been asked what the new microwave cost. It was a pleasant surprise when I found out. I looked for a suitable item in the stores and counter top convection microwaves are quite expensive in Canada. There was one for $699 that was nice but a little too large for where it had to go. The cost of the new one from Apollo, which includes the light and exhaust fan was $399 USA plus $109 shipping. I could have installed it myself but it is being shipped to the repair place in OK Falls and they will put it in for me. The labour will be minimal.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I guess it is time for a new microwave! When the shelf mounted microwave went in the last MH failed I simply took the measurements, went to WalMart and found an acceptable replacement for under $100 which I screwed in place using some angle brackets. This one however hangs under the cupboard and includes the light and exhaust fan so my options are more limited. I will call the local RV repair place on Tuesday and see what they can do for me although I know that anything designed for RV's is going to be a lot more expensive.
My "lucky streak" continues....
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Our group assembled and it was fewer of the old timers than usual but our friends Pete and Laura from Cranbrook brought their whole clan so there were lots of kids. Last night was the wine and cheese party. We used to bring our "home" made wine but this year I never got a chance to put my order in before we got home and have it ready in time to bottle and bring to the party. Instead I stopped at a little winery and bought a couple of bottles of the local Okanagan Merlot and Pino Noir. it was fun catching up with friends.
Tonight was the Pot Luck dinner where everyone brings five times more than necessary so we ate until we could eat no more. the lawn dart competition starts in the morning. The weather is beautiful. it was in the high 20's all day with a bit of a wind to keep thinks nice. Maybe I will wander down and have one more glass of wine!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I headed over to Vancouver on the 3:00 ferry yesterday. It was a two hour trip that sailed by two schools of dolphin playing in the surf. The sight of them made the fact that I had just paid $191 for a one way ticket a little easier to take!
I called the Plaza Mobile RV Park in Surrey to see if they had a spot for for the night and was told they had a no hook-up grass site for $21. This is quite cheap for the Vancouver area so I took it. I asked for a late checkout as my retirees meeting was at 11:00 and I thought it might go until 2:00. She told me there was no problem.
I fired up the generator to heat up a frozen pasta meal in the microwave and then I watched TV with the inverter until I went to sleep. The new wiring job on the inverter seems to be working well. There was a momentary alarm as I connected both the TV and the computer but it went out immediately and everything ran.
My meeting went on longer than I expected and it was almost 5:00 before I got back to the RV park so I just paid for one more night. I went to bed early and got a nice early start before 7:00 the next morning. It was a good trip but there was quite a bit of snow on the Hope - Princeton Highway!
I got to the Maple Leaf RV Park in Oliver, had a beer with Rick, the friendly owner and then visited my old friends Tom and Betty Richardson for a half hour before I did a little grocery shopping and returned to the motorhome to have something to eat and settle down for the night. My friends will start arriving tomorrow. There will not be as many of us here this year. We have had as many as fifty here for the long weekend in the past but this year it will probably be as few as ten or fifteen. Age is starting to take a toll on our group!
As I was getting ready to leave yesterday morning I noticed four eagles in a tree beside the house. It was a nesting pair and their two young. The parents were watching out while the young ones were playing around. One would land on a branch and the other would try to land beside him. knocking both of them down to a lower branch. This went on for some time and I managed to find time to grab my camera for a couple of shots. They were very active and there were many branches to confuse the focusing.
I looked on the bank behind the house for a nest but found none. They must have been just visiting.
BTW: These photos were taken with my new Nikon 70 - 300 mm lens that I bought on eBay to replace the 70 - 210 that I lost in Palanque, MX. So far the lens is performing flawlessly and producing good shots. However I am finding I cannot hold the camera as steady as I once could and the high magnification amplifies any shake so I will have to start using my tripod more. A concession to being 64!
One of the adults:
One of the young:
Monday, May 11, 2009
On Thursday I will be heading to Oliver, BC where a group of us old Union activists get together every May Long Weekend to re fight the battles and remind ourselves how neat we are. A friend on mine calls this get together the "Dissidents Picnic".
Norma is staying home for now as we are having some work done on the house and she wants to be there to tell the workers how to drywall. She usually enjoys telling me how to drive but she had to make a choice. She will be joining me after Oliver and from there we will be heading up to Edmonton where we will be burying my brother's ashes. As you may remember, Gord passed away earlier this year while we were in Mexico. He was cremated and the family will get together on the first weekend in June to bury his ashes in his wife's familys private cemetary north of Edmonton.
I have only been home a little over two weeks and am so happy to be on the road! Maybe I am turning into a vagabond like my friend Tioga George.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
We are going to Edmonton in June with the motorhome and will stop in Kamloops to get this job done. Be assured I will report on it here!
I found their splice under the rooftop fridge vent cover and removed the old light gauge wire all the way back to the controller. I then spliced in two #10 wires to the positive and negative leads from the solar panel. I would have liked to have gone right to the panel itself but the connections are underneath and it is mounted and sealed to the roof. It would have been very difficult to remove but I am happy with the splice I made. I ran the wires down the conduit I had previously placed in the fridge vent and connected them directly to the back of the controller. I then mounted the controller beside the stairs where it covers a mark I made on the wall during the original installation and which I hoped Norma would not notice. Of course she did but now it is gone and I am in her good books again.
My only remaining project on the motorhome is to mount the new 19" LCD TV onto the bedroom wall. It has to be mounted on a bit of an angle to face the bed and it will take some ingenuity to come up with something that is as solid as I want. They sell mounts but the mount costs almost as much as the TV did and I am not too impressed with them as they are not as rigid as I would like. We have been getting along so far by remembering to take the TV off the shelf before we move but it is just a matter of time until I forget.....
I am thinking of a large "barn door" type hinge mounted on a solid standoff, maybe a 2 X 6 bolted through the wall along with some way to keep it closed while traveling. Luckily there is a bathroom cabinet on the other side of the wall to hide any bolts..... This is still an ongoing process...
Saturday, May 9, 2009
This morning I started on replacing the tail lights on the car dolly. One side had gone completely dead and the other side had lost the brake and signal lights. It was a combination of damaged wiring and burned out bulbs. The bulbs are inside a sealed unit so they are not replaceable on an individual basis but rather you have to replace the whole unit. Before we left the States I bought a kit containing two LED tail lights and all the wiring needed. The LED's are good for 10,000 hours so this will be a far better solution.
When I removed the old lights I found the cutouts in the fenders were too large for the new lights. I bought one of those white plastic cutting boards and used it to cut out two pieces to fill these holes and bolted them in place. The material and colour are very close to that of the fender and it will not be noticable. I drilled some holes for the new lights and connected the wire to the old harness after I cut off the damaged part. It looks very professional and, although I could not test it, I am confident it will work when I hook it up.
The Job Jar is almost empty and I an getting ready to watch Game Five of the Vancouver / Chicago series of the Stanly Cup semi finals. The series is tied 2 - 2 so this is an important game and the Canucks have home ice advantage! Life Is Good!
Friday, May 8, 2009
I used to be able to fit quite easily under large vehicles but this time I found some parts of my body squeezing against the running gear as I moved about. They must be using lower profile tires these days...
I put a fuse holder in the line and made the connections. The "at rest" voltage supplied to the inverter increased by about 0.2 volts so the connection is good. I will have to test the new arrangement to see if there is still a voltage drop when I turn on the TV, StarChoice and the computer.
Tomorrow I will install new taillights on the car dolly.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I took it down to my favorite computer store where they told me there was no way that the onboard video card could run a wide screen monitor. Like I should have known this. They told me they could sell me a video card and install it for free. Free sounded like a good deal so they went ahead and did this. A couple of hours later They called to say it was finished so I went down to pick it up and pay the $110 bill. This store recycles old computer equipment so I dropped off my old 486 that I could not even give away to my grandchildren as well as an old printer that was taking up space under the desk for a couple of years.
On the way home I decided to replace the Lexmark printer that cost me a fortune for ink cartridges and was currently not working. I stopped at Staples and found an HP 3 in 1 network printer on sale for under $100. The salesman assured me the cartridges for this printer were less than the Lexmark so I bought it.
The monitor works very nicely with my computer and gives me a ton more real estate on the desktop to play on. I will have to fiddle a little with the Gamma setting and fine tuning the colour but my photos looked very nice on it when I opened PhotoShop. The colors are much nicer than on the old monitor. I have not set up the printer yet but when I do it should be accessable from all three of the computers (his, hers and the motorhome's laptop). That is a project for tomorrow when I have the house to myself as Norma is driving down to Victoria for a reunion of her former workmates at Forest Renewal BC. They shall be terrorizing one of the pubs in Victoria Friday night.
I still haven't done the rewiring job on the inverter but I am getting close.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I suspect my problem is that the ten feet of #10 wire is simply too light for this application. The voltage drop created when the load is applied creates a situation where the inverter thinks it is drawing from a dead battery and shuts down (as it was designed to do). I am going to replace the #10 wire with #6 cable and hope this is sufficient to overcome the voltage drop. If this does not work I will relocate the inverter to the battery compartment under the stairs and run an extension cord under the motorhome to the TV area. This is the recommended way to do it but it means I would be unable to turn the inverter on and off without removing the stair to get into the battery compartment. The end result would be that the inverter would remain on for several months at a time creating a continuous small drain on the batteries.
My plan was to do this job today but it will not quit raining and the project involves crawling under the motorhome to run the cable. I may just sit in front of the computer and TV and think about it for another day... or two...
Life Is Good!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I am happy to see that the District of Columbia is joining other progressive and fair minded States and is finally going to allow Same Sex Marriage. This move is long overdue. I have listened to and attempted to understand the argument against Same Sex Marriage but cannot comprehend it. To my mind it is nothing but closed minded bigotry that is giving “religion” a bad name.
If you want to show your support, these shirts are available from Karel.
Happy Cinco de Mayo to all my Mexican friends! This is the day to be with your families, share a meal and celebrate the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French forces at Puebla on May 5, 1862.
On that day at Puebla’s Fort of Cerro de Guadalupe, Mexican General Ignacio de Zaragoza and his 2000 men defeated a frontal attack by 6000 French troops! This occasion has been celebrated ever since with the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo.
In Mexico’s favour that day was the fact that the French invaders were not expecting an organized defence of the city plus many of the French troops were suffering from the common Mexican tourist’s malady, diarrhea and were probably more interested in finding the banos than they were in spreading French Imperialism. The French did however, return the following year to take the city which they occupied for four years.
The Battle of Puebla:
Monday, May 4, 2009
I carry prepaid SIM cards for Canada, USA and Mexico which I simply insert as I cross the borders. It is a handy system and avoids having to keep three phones.
My friend Don in Pahrump, NV just bought a couple of LG Shine phones which seem to work pretty well for him. They are tri-band phones that include the 1900 MHz band used in Mexico and can be used in Canada and the USA as well. We hardly ever use our cell phones when we travel. They are mainly for emergency and for our son to try to keep track of where we are. Because of this, $20 or $25 prepaid cards for each country last us for a year. In Canada we use the 7/11 Speakout service, in the USA, T-Mobile and in Mexico, the Telcel system. In Canada and the USA our cards last one year before expiring but in Mexico it is a little hard to tell. I think they last three months. We bought a $200 Peso card when we entered Mexico and when we had vehicle problems in Puebla we burned up a lot of time and actually ran out. We topped it up with a $100 Peso card and did not use it much after that. When we needed it near the end of the trip we found it to be empty again. This was probably three months since the top up. I still have not mastered the intricacies of making a phone call in Mexico. There are city codes to contend with and instead of simply dialing 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx you have to dial 01-xxx-xxx-xxxx or sometimes 001-xxx-xxx-xxxx, sometimes adding a city code. I know it is not all that complicated but I can never seem to make a successful call without having a helpful bystander help me. Thankfully there are always plenty of helpful bystanders in Mexico.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
The Canucks disappointed us by going to sleep half way through the game and letting Chicago win but there is always the next game...
Well, Sunday morning and the mess is cleaned up, leftovers have been frozen or eaten and Brooks and Linda have left. Time for me to stretch out in front of the TV and vegetate!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
There was some water damage in the MH where some trim had been damaged by the slideout leak so we bought some oak - $50 for a ten foot board! - and made some trim pieces from it. Linda stained it and Brooks and I nailed it up today. It looks pretty good although the stain is not a perfect match to the paper covered pressboard it sits beside.
The weather has been perfect here so we got the patio all ready and picked out some firewood for the outdoor fireplace. Brooks and Linda bought us an outdoor propane heater for the patio for a combined anniversary and birthday (the next ten birthdays Brooks says) so we were all ready to enjoy the evening outside. It is now about an hour before guests arrive in it is pouring rain! Not the kind of rain you people down south get where it rains for an hour and then everything dries out, but the BC West "Wet" Coast kind of rain where it starts today and ends in June! The party will be inside!
We will have the big screen on as the Vancouver Canucks are playing Chicago tonight in the second game of Round Two of the Stanly Cup. The Canucks are undefeated so far in the finals and there are tons of car flags around town (mine included). Everyone is a Canuck fan. Well, except for Linda who is still an Oilers fan. She hasn't been in BC long enough I guess. Other than that though she is a great person. She puts up with my son so that alone makes her a Saint!
Friday, May 1, 2009
My friend John Calypso has suggested I keep the Blog going. He thinks folks might be interested in our planning and preparations for the next adventure. I think I will give it a try and see what happens to the visitor numbers. I hate making a speech in an empty room but as long as there are people reading I will give it a go.
The Blog has developed a life of it’s own with well over 21,000 hits. This is an unbelievable number and if I am providing a little entertainment for some people, I can hardly pass up the chance to continue.
I have a list of projects to do to get ready for the next trip and will keep you up to date. There will not be daily postings but I will try to keep up.