Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Loneliest Highway

They say Nevada’s Highway 50 is the loneliest highway in the USA but I think Texas 90 would give Nevada a good run for the title! For the first hundred miles or so I don’t think we came across more that twenty other vehicles going in either direction.

My friend Don from Parump, NV warned me to keep the gas tank topped up but his advice came too late. We stopped for breakfast at Van Horn, where we turned off I-10 to head for Big Bend country. After breakfast we looked for gas stations and found two, both too small for me to get into and out of easily. We looked at the map and saw there was one town about 30 miles away and another 55 miles away. We had well over a quarter of a tank and thought there would be no problem. Thirty miles down the road we came to Valentine. It was about three blocks long with a boarded up gas station and grocery store. The only business that seemed to be open was a dentist office.

Next came the small town of Ryan. It too had no gas station! We finally arrived at Marfa and found gas. Good thing because my "fuel" light was beginning to flicker! In El Paso regular gas was $2.55 but at Marfa it was $3.08! I thought it would be cheaper further on so I only bought $75 worth. A little further on it was $3.24! We carried on to Alpine and topped it off for $2.99. The price stayed high all the way to Del Rio where it dropped down to $2.69 where it stayed all the way to Laredo.

Texas Highway 90:
Highway 90

Roadside Diner

We found this neat oldtime roadside diner just east of Alpine. It was modern and spotlessly clean but brought back memories of the 50’s diners. The prices were quite modern though!


Monday, November 29, 2010

The “Other” Roswell – Del Rio, TX

We are parked in a Walmart in Del Rio, TX. We asked permission to stay for the night and the greeter told us, “You can stay here just as long as you like”! Now that is Texas hospitality! Another interesting thing about Del Rio:

In 1955, Colonel Robert B. Willingham, US Air Force spotted and briefly followed a UFO on the USA – Mexico border near Del Rio, TX. His report says the craft was flying erratically and wobbling before it crashed into the Mexican bank of the Rio Grande River directly across from Langtry. It is a very interesting story that can be read here.

He and another flier returned to the scene in a small aircraft and landed. He was only allowed a brief glimpse inside the craft before being ordered away by Mexican Army personnel who were guarding the area before turning it over to USA forces. He says he saw three bodies inside. The (now 84 year old) retired aviator said the beings he saw fit the common description of UFO occupants with large heads, slit-like mouths, and arms "like broomsticks”. They did not appear to be wearing any clothing.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Alpine, Texas

We are in an RV park tonight. We did not plan it that way but there is no Walmart here and no friendly looking boondocking spot. We looked in the book and found a park that only charged $14 per night and as we only needed a place to sleep, we went there. From the gate it looked full and the office did not seem to be open. We thought we would take a drive around the park to see if there was an open space. As we suspected, the park was full and to top it off, there was NO TURNAROUND! This has to be the only RV park in North America with no turnaround!

I backed the car off the dolly, unhooked the dolly, turned around, hooked the dolly back on and drove the Honda onto the dolly. Simple, right? NO! I drove the car a little too far onto the dolly and the front wheels dropped off the front of the dolly and spun in the air! BIG PROBLEM!

We stood there looking at it and one of the RV’ers in the park came out to see what was going on. He was from Ontario and was working for the local University. He had a scissor jack and some blocks and I had some blocks. We jacked up one side of the Honda and put blocks under the wheel then repeated the process with the other side. This brought the wheels almost even with the dolly. I got in and backed the Honda onto the dolly. Problem solved and no damage done to the Honda or the dolly! We offered him some beer or a bottle of wine but he does not drink and would take nothing for all his efforts.

We then headed over to the local five star RV Park called The Lost Alaskan as I needed a hot shower. It was $29 with my 10% Good Sam discount and I headed over for a nice, long, hot shower. Things will get better, I am sure. Life is still good!
Map picture

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Heading Out Tomorrow!

Tomorrow we will head out towards Brownsville, TX. We will avoid the Interstates and travel on Highway 90 from Van Horn to Del Rio and then Hwy 277 to Carrizo Springs and Hwy 83 all the way to Brownsville. This will get us very near the Big Bend area of Texas and should provide some good scenery. It will take two or three days and we will be “Walmarting” at nights. Our route will be almost a straight line between the two pushpins on the map. It is unlikely we will have Internet tomorrow night. There is a huge Virgin Broadband "dead zone" for the first half of the trip. I will be experiencing "Internet Withdrawal"!
Map picture

One More Pair!

Santa forgave me for trying to run him down yesterday and told me to go back to Tony Lama's for a pair of boots for myself. They are Tony Lama "Genuine Ostrich" boots. They were the second pair I tried on and fit over my bothersom keft ankle with little problem. They are keepers! Another reason to go back to Mexico next year - to get them shined!

One of the "Real Cowboys" who was shopping asked me if they were "One or two grunt boots". He said if they go on with only one grunt, they are the right size. Two grunts and they are too tight. These are one grunt boots!
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas Shopping Texas Style

We went and did all our Christmas shopping today at a Tony Lama Factory Outlet. Brooks and Linda hinted they wanted cowboy boots and Tony Lama had a great sale on. The boots are already a bargain in the factory outlet and for Black Friday they had an even better deal where you buy one pair and get a second pair for 40% off! The store was full of actual cowboys so it must be a good deal.

Linda got Tony Lama "Dark Brown Vintage Full Quill Ostrich Boots" (photo) and a pair of Tony Lama steel toed work boots that are fancy enough to go dancing in. Watch out for that steel toe Brooks! Brooks got a pair of "Cowboy cool mint green topped" Justin cowboy boots (photo). Norma, never one to be left out, got two spiffy pair of cowboy boots as well, one expensive and one more reasonable. When we got home and looked at the receipt we realized we had bought five pair and could get one more pair for 40% off. We are going back tomorrow to get a pair for me if I can find a pair to fit over my old broken ankle without having to buy "right size 13 and left size 15, por favor". Shopping done! My New Year's Resolution is starting now and it is to spend less than I earn!

I hate shopping at the best of times and add to that the crowds of "Black Friday" and I am in stress overload! We had to stop at JC Penny on the way home to pick up a queen size down quilt for the motorhome that was on sale for $49, about $100 cheaper than it would be in Canada where geese actually come from. We then stopped at a kitchen outlet store and bought a heavy egg poacher for $19 that is very similar to one that Brooks bought for himself in Canada for much more! Santa must winter in El Paso. Life is good and I am truly sorry I tried to run you down today Santa!
Brooks BootsLinda Boots

Thursday, November 25, 2010

If This Is Thursday This Must Be Texas...

We arrived in El Paso late yesterday and checked into the Mission RV Park. This is where we stayed for a couple of weeks three years ago while we waited for repairs of the old motorhome and eventually bought the new one. We are going to try to buy cowboy boots for Brooks and Linda with only foot measurements so that will be fun. There is a Tony Lama factory here as well as several factory outlets so we will try there tomorrow.

We are right across the border from Juarez, MX and we have yet to hear any gunfire or feel any bullets smacking into the rig. Maybe the situation has been exaggerated a little?

There is lots to see around here and maybe we will get a chance to experience some of it. At the very lest least I want to visit Rosa's Cantina. Maybe Marty Robins will drop in for a Lone Star Beer with me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Bisbee, Arizona was established as a copper, gold and silver mining town in 1880. It thrived until 1975 when Phelps Dodge ceased operations. The exodus of mine workers left the area almost in ghost town status until retirees and artists started buying up the cheap houses. It is now a thriving little town again and remains the County Seat. It has since become known as one of the most gay friendly cities in the USA and that is very obvious as you walk through the Old Bisbee section of town.


Cochise Stronghold

These are the Dragoon Mountains just south of Benson. This is where the great Apache Leader, Cochise, is buried. No one has found the actual gravesite, the location of which was kept secret by his people. It was into these mountains where Cochise and his people went at one point to defend themselves from the US Army. It was here where the US Army first used cannon against the Apache. Cochise later told a reporter, “We were winning the battle until they fired their wagons at us!” This is beautiful country around here but it is time to move on. I will post about our trip to the old copper mining town of Bisbee tonight if my Virgin Broadband works.
Cochise Stronghold

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Big Nose Kate’s Saloon

Mary Katherine Horony Cummings (November 7, 1850 – November 2, 1940), known as Big Nose Kate, was the long-time companion/common law wife of fabled gunfighter Doc Holliday.

Big Nose Kate’s Saloon started out life in 1881 as the Grand Hotel. The hotel burned down in the early 1900’s and when rebuilt, was renamed Big Nose Kate’s in her honor. On October 25, 1881, the night before the Gunfight at the OK Corral, the Clantons and McLaurys were guests in the hotel.


Tombstone’s Boot Hill

October 26, 1881 was the day of the shootout at the OK Corral. The first three photos are members of the Clanton and McLaury families killed by the Earps and Doc Holiday on that day. George Johnson was an innocent man. He unknowingly bought a stolen horse and suffered the consequences of frontier law. John Heath robbed a bank in nearby Bisbee and several people were killed. Bisbee citizens, sure of his guilt, grew tired of waiting for justice. Les Moore was a Wells Fargo agent who died in a shootout over ownership a package.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wyatt Earp’s House

This is Wyatt’s house in Tombstone. It is on the corner of his mining claim and across the street from his brother Virgil’s house. The original house was half the size it is today as a subsequent owner dragged another house onto the property and attached it to the original structure. The original structure is on the right and is about 12 by 23 feet, only slightly larger than our motorhome. The interior shot shows the original (!) floors. The third is a statue of Wyatt watching for the Clantons from his front yard.


The historic town of Tombstone is only twenty some miles from Benson. We were last there in the early 70’s and lots has changed! The historic feel is still there however. The OK Corral where the gunfight between the Earps and Clantons took place is now walled up and cannot even be glimpsed without buying a $10 ticket. It was fun walking Allen Street pretending I was back in the day…


Atheists don't have no songs!

The Official Atheists Hymn by Steve Martin...  Very Funny!


"Atheists just sing the Blues"

November 22

Another anniversary of JFK's assassination and still no answers... I can remember the day it happened as if it were yesterday. Here are the posts I made about Dallas and Dealey Plaza when we passed through in April. Lots of photos, I hope they work



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Where Are We?

Map picture

Ray has asked if I could continue putting maps of where we are on the Blog like we did in Mexico last year. I will try to remember to.

Cochise County

We are parked in Benson, AZ at the Cochise Terrace RV Park. We checked out all the Passport America parks as we approached Benson and decided on this one as the best amenities for the money. It was listed as $35 per night and the Passport America price being $17.50, a bargain.

When we checked in however we were told the price had changed to $55 per night with passport America paying $27.50, not so much of a bargain. We paid for three nights but next time we will call ahead and confirm prices. Member parks seem to be allowed to change prices on a whim.

From here we will explore Tombstone and Bisbee with the Honda as both are within a 45 mile side trip south. It is chilly here as we are at 3500 feet altitude. I have the furnace set at 60 degrees and it was kicking in and out all night. Tonight I will plug in our little electric heater to save propane.

The story of Cochise is one you should read. He fought with honor against Spain, Mexico and then the USA and was never defeated. He died in 1874 at the age of 69, a victim of natural causes (probably cancer). He is buried in his beloved Cochise Stronghold, Dragoon Mountains. The actual location of his grave was taken by his friends to their graves.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Exercise In Frustration!

VanCity Credit Union has put me through their own brand of hell this past two weeks! They are trying to change from one type of ATM service "Plus" that worked perfectly to another "Cirrus" that does not work at all (at least in the USA).

I have been having a very difficult time trying to get cash down here. All the ATM's that have worked for me in the past are now declining my card and telling me to "Contact Your branch". I called VanCity and was told the "Plus" machines would no longer work and to look for the ones displaying the "Cirrus" emblem. All Walmart ATM's are Cirrus but decline my card every time. VanCity then told me that some ATM's look for 18 digits in the card number while VanCity's cards have only 16 digits. I was able to find only one machine in Yuma that worked and that was at Wells Fargo Bank but it would only give me $300 and charged a $5 fee where the Walmart machines I used to use only charged $1.50 for a $400 withdrawal.

Another call to VanCity and I was told to look for machines with the "Exchange" sticker and they gave me the addresses of two of them here in Benson. I drove to both of them and only one would take my card but would only give me $200 for a $2 fee.

I finally discovered that Walmart will take my debit card for a purchase and will give me an extra $100 cash from the till. This is what I will have to do, split my purchases into small bundles and go through the checkout three or four times to get my cash.

I fail to understand why VanCity would take a perfectly working system and change it for something that does not work at all! If we were in Mexico we would be in serious financial trouble as it is a cash economy there and without pesos you cannot rent an RV space or even buy gas. Thanks a lot VanCity, if you would have told me in advance what you were going to do I would have changed banks!

Friday, November 19, 2010

On to Casa Grande

We said our good-by's and pulled out of Cocopah a little after 10 this morning. A great bunch of people but I need a couple of days to dry out! "Happy Hour" at Cocopah starts at three and goes until about seven! After doing this for six out of the last seven days, I needed a break.

We got to the Onan generator service place for our eleven o'clock appointment and went shopping while they did their thing. We were not having any problems with the generator (that we knew of) so we just ordered an oil and air filter change as well as to check the frequency and voltage.

We got back and talked to the repairman who told us that the generator was running a little slow which meant it was not putting out the full power it was capable of. He adjusted that and told us the air filter was pretty clogged and did not look like it had been changed last time which was a big no-no. He changed that filter and tested the set by using it to run the A/C and microwave at the same time and it worked! We have never been able to run both at the same time and when I questioned the place in Campbell River that serviced it last time, I was told I could not expect that from my 4KW unit. Obviously that guy either did not know what he was talking about or did not know how to set the generator up.

I told him I ran the generator for at least one hour per month and he told me to change that to 1 1/2 hours every three weeks and to have it serviced every 18 months or every 150 hours, whichever comes first. If you want a good job done in Yuma, call the "Service Depot" on Shortway off 32nd Avenue near 3E. The service cost me $139.

We pulled into the Walmart in Casa Grande only to see "No Overnight Parking" signs. We asked at Customer service and were told to go ahead and park for the night. It was good we did not have to move on because we are dead tired after the last week.

Oh yes, my Virgin Broadband works here!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maintenance Day

Today was the day to get a couple of things done. We have had problems with both the crank up windows in the bedroom. We called Camping World in Oregon who gave us a price of $160 per window to repair them. That was too much so we carried on. In Yuma we called CJ's who came out to the park yesterday to have a look. One window they fixed by lubricating the workings but the other was seized right up, probably through exposure to the salt air at home. They found the proper part and came back today to install it. It was not quite the right part but they drilled a couple more mounting holes and it worked. The cost was a much more reasonable $85.

Then Norma talked to Roadrunner RV Washing who came over to give the rig a wash and a hand wax. They gave the rubber roof a UV treatment, washed everything and then hand rubbed in a coat of Meguiars Wax. It took three guys about two hours and they charged us $95. Considering the amount of products they used, it was a reasonable price.

We leave Cocopah tomorrow morning and have an appointment for a generator service at noon in the east part of town. We will then drive towards Casa Grande and hopefully a visit with our friends Bob and Donna Donnelly.

The good news is, it looks like we will have Virgin 3G coverage tomorrow night!

WIFI Boosters

Tom has asked me a question about my WIFI booster. He has bought a different type from RadioLabs and is wondering about the differences.

The one Tom bought is the same as our Dutch friends have mounted on the roof of their camper. It is an "Omni Directional" antenna and is a very good unit. An omni gathers signals from every direction and boosts those signals. It is a very quick way to scan and determine if you have a strong enough signal to use.

Mine, a Hawking unit is a "Yagi" or directional antenna. You must point it at the source of the signal you want to pick up. Once you scan in a circle with mine and find the signal you want, it will actually boost that signal more than Tom's Omni. In short, mine eventually gets a better signal but Tom's is faster (easier) to set up. His requires a hole in the roof and a permanent mount while mine simply points out the window. They both plug into a USB port on the computer.

They are different technologies but both get you to where you want to go.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dutch Visitors!

Last night we had an unexpected visit from Claudia and PJ, our Dutch friends from Mexico! The are staying in Yuma for a couple of nights before heading down to La Penita on the West coast of Mexico. It was great to see them and they entertained our "Happy Hour" friends with stories of their travels and a look at their books.

They flew into Salt Lake City from Holland where they picked up their truck and camper. The Visa rules have changed in the USA and they were only able to get a three month Visa. They are supposed to fly out of the USA back to Holland in three months which will seriously cut their Mexico winter short. They are exploring ways to lengthen their stay.


Anyone who still believes that Democracy is the only answer only has to look at Dancing With The Stars to see it's failings. Bristol Palin with her Tea Party "fans" beat out Brandy, a woman who can actually dance. The astounded look on the faces of other contestants told it all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mexico Lite

We walked over the border to Algodones yesterday to get new glasses. We went to Algodones Optical even though we had been warned they had raised their prices. We have bought several pair there over the years and have always had great service and quality from them.

I had a prescription from my Doctor at home but Norma had to get a free exam. We picked out new frames and paid the bill. Mine were $215 and Norma paid $350 for two pair, all with designer frames. I ordered Transition lenses after the dire warning from my eye Doctor about the irreversible sun damage that I have suffered. We could have waited for them but we had an engagement back at the RV park at 3:30 so we will have to go back for them on Wednesday.

I also stopped at Mary's Pharmacy to check the price of my eye drops. In Canada they cost $40 per month and last winter in Mexico they were under $20 per month for the name brand, Xalatan. Mary's in Algodones had a generic product for about $10 per month so I bought a year's worth.

The trip over reminded me of how much I miss Mexico! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant and I ordered in Spanish, much to the surprise of the waiter who had to ask me to repeat my order. Algodones can hardly be considered "Real Mexico" but was enough to make me re-think our decision (again). We will still carry on though, leaving for Texas on Friday. The seafood restaurants on the Gulf Coast will make me feel better!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Now What Could This Be?

NASA Announces Televised Chandra News Conference
WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 15, to discuss the Chandra X-ray Observatory's discovery of an exceptional object in our cosmic neighborhood.

The news conference will originate from NASA Headquarters' television studio, 300 E St. SW in Washington and carried live on NASA TV. 

What could it be? A new NEO (Near Earth Object)? Chandra only looks in the X-ray spectrum so that opens up possibilities.

I will not be able to see the press conference as today we walk over to Mexico to get new glasses. I will find out later... Interesting!

OK, It is a new Black Hole developing only 51 million light years away. It is unique because we will be able to study it much easier than any of the others. Neat! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Secret Credit card Code For USA Gas Stations

I know all Canadian travelers in the USA have faced the frustration of having to deal with gas stations and the dreaded "Enter Your ZIP Code" display. This lets the pump confirm that you are the owner of the credit card by comparing this code to your billing address. The problem is, Canadians do not have a ZIP code. We have a Postal Code in a different format. Sometimes I made up a code and sometimes it worked but most times, not. My favorite was 90210.

I asked my credit card company how to get around this and was told to use the digits in my Postal Code and add two zeros. I tried it this year and it has worked every time!

For instance, my Postal Code is: V9W 1B6 (made up, thanks to John). Therefore my code is: 91600. It works!

Canadian Football Day!

Today was a football day for us Canadians. It is the East and West semi-finals today. Toronto beat Hamilton this morning and BC and Saskatchewan are playing right now with BC owning a small lead. No time to Blog!

Well, the Lions found a way to lose! At least i will not have to be in a panic to get the StarChoice hooked up for more games...

Our Friend In Mexico

This is exactly the kind of news I do not like to report! Our friend Les entered Mexico yesterday and spend his first night in Mexico in a Pemex station at what he thought was a safe distance away from the border. Not so! He was robbed at gunpoint not long after he parked. One man pounded on the door while another shoved a gun through a window screen and demanded money.

Les keeps a "throw away" wallet in plain sight with a couple of hundred pesos (+/- $20) and a very low limit credit card in it so this is what the robbers got, not his real wallet with much more cash. Les used to be a cop in London and Bermuda so he was able to remain calm through the ordeal. They grabbed the wallet and took off in a black car.

Les quickly moved to the front of the station for the rest of the night and in the morning discovered his wallet shoved under the windshield wiper. He has no idea if the robbers came back with it or if someone found it on the ground and returned it. The cash was gone but everything else was still there including the credit card.

You can read Les' report here:

We are happy he is safe and is not letting the experience dampen his enthusiasm for Mexico!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We arrived in Yuma at about 3:10 (he, he) and checked into the Cocopah RV Resort. I have mixed feelings about the place. It is wide open to the desert so it is often windy and dusty but we like it because we have friends living here.

We set up and then walked over to Muff and Val's to see if they were here only to find them hosting "Happy Hour" for a couple of friends. We have known Muff and Val since the 60's and they are the kind of friends that you can see every year or or two (two in this case) and feel like you have never been apart. They are usually so busy with their golf here it is hard to get together with them so we were lucky.

Carl and Gina, our neighbors from Montana invited us to the "Potato Party" Monday night where everyone brings a potato topper and a desert or salad. It should be fun and Dave and Sharon, our friends from Washington State, will be there as well so I can give him the six pack of Canadian beer I owe him for forwarding a package from the USA to us in the spring. Dave and Sharon always seemed to end up beside us in previous years here in Cocopah but have now bought a park model in another part of town.

I am going to keep these posts short so as not to abuse Gina and Carl's Internet connection that she is so kindly sharing with me. My Virgin Broadband does not seem to work here in Yuma and my friend Rod investigated for himself and discovered they have no 3G coverage in Yuma so that would explain it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We Upgraded

We decided to upgrade from Walmart to a casino tonight. We are parked in a windstorm between San Bernardino and Palm Springs behind the Morongo Casino and Resort. There is a nice free RV parking area here a short walk to the casino. We played slots for a couple of hours, me ending $4 down and Norma $30 down. Not a great start to the evening.

We then decided to go to the 27th floor lounge for a glass of wine before we got some dinner. Norma ordered a glass of house Chardonnay and I a glass of house Merlot. It was a good thing we only had one because the bill was $30! Fifteen dollars a glass for wine not as good as the $1.97 a bottle stuff we bought at Walmart the other day! I guess we were paying for the ambiance or whatever! They can take their ambiance and.... Whatever.

We are back in the motorhome with a pot of coffee and three English channels off the air. It is quite chilly as well as windy so we will be passing right through Palm Springs tomorrow heading for Yuma.

Update: We had a great sleep here last night. It is far enough off the highway to be very quiet and the RV parking is far away from the regular parking lots so there was no traffic. It is 8:30 am and we are getting ready for the 150 mile drive to Yuma.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Garmin Nuvi 1350T

This is the first real chance I have had to test my new wide screen Garmin Nuvi 1350T GPS unit. So far it has found the correct routes but I have a couple of observations. One, it does not take kindly to a change of route. I set it to take me from Olympia, WA to Bakersfield, CA. This route follows I-5 for the first few hundred miles but I always take the Portland bypass on I-205. "Emily" started complaining as soon as I turned off I-5 and kept trying to get me to return to it. Even when we were back on I-5 at Wilsonville, OR she wanted me to return to Portland to take the "correct" route.

I had to change the annoying default voice that was pre-programmed. After trying a few I settled on "Emily", a British English voice. It is much less annoying. I like the ability to add my own Points of Interest and have added "Diners, Drive-Ins  and Dives"amongst others. We will use this to try out a couple of the oddball restaurants Guy has  featured on his show.

This unit gives traffic updates, supposedly warning you of congestion. This feature operated a couple of times on the way down the Hood Canal, warning me of two minute delays when there really were none. It was not a big deal and I suppose those areas could be subject to delays if the traffic was any heavier. This feature is paid for by advertisers so every once in a while a little coupon box appears offering a discount in an approaching restaurant or hotel. Mostly Best Western Hotels and Olive Garden restaurants so far. This can be turned off by turning off the traffic feature.

Another minor annoyance is when you program in a waypoint such as a restaurant. The coordinates are probably the front door of the restaurant and we never park that close. When you return to the rig after eating and try to find your way back to the highway, the unit keeps directing you back to the restaurant because she is not satisfied you were ever there.  This is probably a common problem with all units but it is annoying to have to pull over and reset the destination.

I am still getting used to this unit and will probably have more to say about it later.

Virgin Broadband To Go User Report

Well, it has been three days now and I feel somewhat qualified to write a preliminary report. Virgin is certainly the cheapest of the current pack at $79 for the stick and $40 per month for unlimited bandwidth but came with mixed reviews. People complain about the coverage (it uses Sprint) and the coverage map is not all that impressive. They follow most or all of the major Interstate highways but it looks pretty dead once you get off the beaten path. That is fine with me because we will be sticking pretty close to populated areas and I can live with the odd period of no connection if that ever happens.

I have gotten connected every time I have turned it on but have yet to see 4 out of 4 bars. It is usually 2 or 3. Data speeds are quite slow:

Download - 0.24 Mbps
Upload - 0.03 Mbps
Ping - 1216 ms

Better than dialup but a lot slower than the ADSL I have at home. Emails with photos take a few seconds to load but nothing I cannot live with.

The big thing for me is that Skype works over it! This was my major complaint with the Mexican Telcel 3G system. Skype did not work at all on it even with a 4/4 bar signal so this is a huge advantage.

I am sorry I could not find a MIFI device. It would have mounted in the middle of the motorhome and would have provided WIFI in a 30 foot radius. It allows five simultaneous connections so I could have used both computers and still been able to share with a neighbor. There were simply none of these units available in Washington or Oregon.


We are in Fresno, CA at yet another - you guessed it - Walmart. It was a long day with driving through Sacramento. What a nightmare the highway is there! I had to stay out of the right hand lane because of all the merging vehicles that do not know how to merge. Please Americans - it is called an acceleration lane for a reason. Please do not pull in front of me going twenty MPH slower than me! One time I will not be able to slam on the brakes in time.

We spent an hour or so in the Olive Pit in Corning, CA. I love that store with its shelves full of bottled olives. We bought enough for Christmas (I hope) for just under $100. Garlic flavored, anchovy stuffed, feta stuffed, martini olives, plain green olives and the list goes on!

It is finally a little warmer! It is starting to feel like we are "South" for the winter. I can walk around in a long sleeve T-shirt and no jacket. It will only get better from here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cheap Oil Change

We stopped in the same WalMart as last year in Anderson, CA. We put the motorhome in line for a lube and oil and went right in. I got a full synthetic oil change (6 quarts), lube and new wiper blades installed for $65! While they were doing it I went into the store to find some of the nice Merlot wine we had with our neighbors on Sunday night and found it had been "Rolled Back" to $1.98 per bottle. Recognizing a bargain, I bought six and a six bottle wine carrier for another $1.

We are parked in their lot overnight and eating some frozen dinners we bought in the same store. Call me cheap…

 We are also getting about six off air digital channels here. Norma will be watching Dancing With The Stars to see if Sarah Palin's daughter finally gets kicked off!


We had snow while driving today! It started in Weed, CA and lasted off and on for a hundred miles or so. We are about two weeks late getting through these mountains and this is what happens. It wasn’t bad, we just had to drive carefully and keep the speed down. It never snowed hard enough to accumulate on the highway but the windshield wipers were packing quite a load of it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Trip So Far

We arrived in Victoria on Saturday at about 3:00PM and waited on the street until the 4:00 ferry sailed. At that time we are allowed to drive into the lot and park for the night. The gate is closed at around 4:30 or 5:00 so you have to be there on time.

Brooks and Linda showed up a few minuted later and we walked across the street to the SwiftShore Pub to wait for Linda's mom and dad. They arrived, we had a couple of drinks (except for Linda, the DD) and then went to Santiago's for dinner. It was good food, great conversation and then we walked over to the motorhome for a nightcap before everyone left. We were in bed early and actually slept in too late to go across the street for breakfast.

We were pre-cleared for customs, registered our passports with USA Immigration and boarded the ferry. After a one and a half hour crossing we unloaded, drove through the inspection area and were on our way. I like the drive down the Olympic Peninsula and Hood Canal. The road had been improved since April and soon we were in Olympia and on our way!

We spent the first night in a Walmart in Chehlis, WA where it was very cold! The down comforter came in very handy. In the morning we drove to Camping World in Wilsonville, OR to see if they could fix a couple of windows that had developed broken cranks. They could not so we carried on to Eugene, OR where we parked in another Walmart. We did not cover much ground today as we stopped in every Walmart along the way looking in vain for a Virgin Broadband device. The monthly cost of these was just reduced so they are in demand and being sold out quickly. After buying the device ($79 for an Internet stick or $149 for a MIFI card) it is only $40 per month for unlimited bandwidth use. This is a good deal and we finally found one.

The Walmart we are in is posted "No Overnight RV Parking" but, through experience we have learned to ask anyway and there was no problem. She said the signs were just to keep people from parking for days on end, I can't understand why anyone would do that...

I'm A Virgin!

Virgin Broadband To Go that is. After checking every Walmart, Radioshack and Best Buy from Olympia to Eugene, OR for a Virgin MIFI device, I had to settle for the Virgin Internet stick. We are in a Walmart parking lot just south of Eugene and I am getting a 2to bars out of five signal with it. The big thing is, I AM connected!

I bought the device but when I was setting it up and got to the payment page, their system would not accept a non-USA credit card! I ran back to the Radioshack and bought a prepaid card which it refused to accept. I called tech support and after only about two minutes I talked to a real live person who fixed the problem. It seems the system was locked in credit card mode for me and would not let me change to prepaid card.

I think I am in a bit of a fringe area as it is a little slow but I can live with it. A commenter warned me that the stick is easily damaged if it is inserted into a USB port but I got around that by using a short cable that came with my Mexican Telcel device. It gives me just enough length that I can hang the device in the window where the signal is a little better. So far, so good. $79 for the device and $40 per month with unlimited bandwidth!

Friday, November 5, 2010

USA Internet

We have usually depended on free RV Park WIFI while we have been in the States but last year on the way home it did not work out all that well. Many RV parks charge for the service, some as much as $6 per day. In the parks that offer it for free it is not always available at the site. My Hawking dish bailed me out in a few places but I was still left without any connection in a few places. I must admit I have become spoiled by readily available WIFI in the house all summer and am not willing to go back to undependable service.

After checking out prepaid internet plans on the Internet, I have sort of settled on Virgin's Broadband To Go plan. I will have to buy either a USB stick ($80) that plugs into the laptop or one of the new MIFI boxes ($150) that plugs into the inverter, mounts in the middle of the motorhome and provides WIFI in a thirty foot range. It allows five simultaneous connections so I could share it with a neighbor if the need arose. Service is $40 per month and has no bandwidth limit. The problem is that this is a newly released plan and the MIFI boxes are sold out everywhere I checked on the Internet. If I can't find one of the MIFI's I will have to settle for the Internet stick. The system is sold at Best Buy and WalMart.

Metal Is Precious!

Two years ago almost to the day I was discussing a fund that was not performing well with my financial manager. It was just over $23,000, not a terribly large amount and Cecil said he had his eye on a Precious Metals Fund that he thought showed promise and thought that I might like to take a bit of a chance on. He knew the fund manager personally and trusted him. We moved the money into it and watched. After just two years it is now worth $77,000. Not bad! If this is how capitalists live, maybe I should give it a try. According to my statement I am up 233% to date on that fund. Don't worry, I am well diversified.

I was in to see Cecil last week and he suggested I might want to pull out the profits and let the original investment ride. I thought I should pull out the original investment and let the profits ride. As a compromise we did nothing and agreed to look at it again in the spring. This week the fund rose another $3,700 in value. Life is Good!

What Is It They Don't Understand?

Norma's dad died three years ago at age 98 and left an eleven cent credit on his credit card. Every month MasterCard continued to send him a statement showing this eleven cent credit. Norma phoned them to tell them he was dead and to please cancel the card and donate the eleven cents to their coffee fund. They informed her they could not do that unless they spoke to him personally which would be tough to do considering him being dead and all. That call ended in a stalemate.

The statements continued but we thought there might be an end in sight as the card was soon to expire. A month later he got a brand new (higher limit) MasterCard in the mail with the statement showing the eleven cent credit. They were not giving up on this customer, dead or not. Norma called them again and tried to talk some reason into them but was informed again that the only person who could cancel the card was Bill himself. If he actually was dead as Norma suggested but they obviously did not believe, MasterCard would need a notarized copy of the Death Certificate to prove this to them. We could then ask them to write a cheque to "The Estate Of" for the eleven cents but only after she sent them a certified copy of the will to prove she was the Executor and was entitled to receive the funds. This was the only other way to close the account if we continued to refuse to put Bill on the line. They did ask Norma to verify his date of birth and she said "1909, see, that is why he is dead"!

Unwilling to spend good money to satisfy these demands, we abandoned the task altogether and the monthly statements keep rolling in, each showing the eleven cent credit. Maybe we can shift him to paperless billing with the email address of Bill@graveyard.com. If he only knew how much trouble he caused by overpaying that last bill!

Hitting The Road

Aside from all this preoccupation with Cuba, we are getting ready to head South. We will be leaving here Saturday morning for Victoria where we will park overnight in the Blackball Ferry lineup. Brooks has made dinner reservations for Saturday night where we will join Linda's parents. Our plans are very loose this year. If the weather is good we may head down the Oregon coast.

The other good news for us Canadians is the dollar just hit par this morning. My "Loonie" is finally worth a "Greenback"!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Across From The Hotel

There is an inlet just across the street from our hotel that is a popular gathering place for locals in the late afternoons. People stop to socialize and fish, sometimes ordering food to be brought over from the restaurants across the street.
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Kiki's Club

This is the Italian restaurant just up the street from out all inclusive. It saved us from the bland food served at our hotel. Kiki's has a patio and great seafood for a reasonable price.

The guitar player is a Cuban patron who was sitting at the next table with her boyfriend. We started talking to her and it turned out she was injured in a car accident and was told she would never walk or talk again. She laughed at them and committed herself to show them how little they knew. She took up the guitar as therapy and could play and sing very well. We bought them a couple of beer and she entertained us for some time until her mother arrived to join them for dinner.
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This is Roly's brother Charlie. Charlie is quite a character and makes his living as an artist. many years ago Charlie was serving his mandatory two years service in the Cuban Military. He soon decided he did not like this form of employment so he stole a row boat and headed for Miami. He misjudged the tide and wind and did not take enough food and water so he had to sit back and await the Cuban Navy. He was picked up, charged with theft of the row boat and promptly had his butt thrown into jail.

He served his time and soon was a free man, sharing the top floor of their parent's old house with Roly. Charlie speaks excellent English and has actually written a great seven page paper on the use and pronounciation of Spanish. I would be pleased to share this paper with anyone who would like a copy. His son (also Charlie) is in Canada, working in Stewart, BC, one of my old haunts when we lived in Terrace.
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Batista's Friend

This large house just around the corner from Roly was built in the late 50's by a friend of Fulgencio Batista. This character ran Batista's prisons and was particularly fond of torturing prisoners, many of them captured rebels. When Batista was forced out of the country this character disappeared into the woodwork and quietly built this house with his ill gotten gains.

Little did he know, but Castro had his eye on him all the time and as soon as the house was finished he was picked up and stood against a wall in the fort. The house was expropriated by Castro and turned into a primary school which it still is to this day. Viva La Revolution!

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Roly's Friend The Barista

Roly was showing me around his neighborhood and we stopped for a coffee at a stand run by a friend of Roly's. The coffee was excellent but I do not know how much it cost. She refused to take my money!
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