Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I changed some of my gold (Precious Metals) funds over to something that was actually going up in value late last year and that generated a capital gains of a substantial amount of money that I have to pay taxes on. I hate it when this happens because I do not actually get to see, touch or feel this money, it just goes back into the portfolio ("The Black Hole" as Norma calls it). But I have to pay capital gains tax on it, in this case about $5000! Ouch! These funds have made nothing in the last year and have actually gone down significantly in value but looking back to when I bought them in the late 90's, they have almost quadrupled in value, hence the capital gains! Oh well, no sense in delaying the inevitable. "Death and taxes" as they say.
Well, at least it is out of the way for this year. Back to my house repairs!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
We got ready and headed home at about ten, stopped at Campbell River's free dump site downtown and then drove home. I am parked in the driveway until we are unloaded. No rush, there is still lots of room to park the cars.
The house was left in pretty good shape by the house sitter. The drain is leaking in the bathroom sink and instead of fixing it, he just turned the water off. He emailed us early in the winter to tell us the dishwasher was not working and I do not know if he got it fixed. I don't want to try it until I talk to him.
Otherwise, the place is clean. He got Norma's regular housekeeper in before we arrived home.
We unloaded the necessities and I am flopped in my Lazy Boy in front of the big screen, waiting for the Canucks - Oilers game. Go Canucks!
Tomorrow we will sort the mail and I will start inputting our income tax information. Hopefully they will go easy on me!
Thursday, April 25, 2013
When the ferry docked and we pulled up to the customs booth I noticed we had a female inspector. Sorry but..... they seem to take their job more seriously than the men. Just say'n.
She asked when we left Canada? November 9. What is the value of goods purchased? $1620, and we have a detailed list with receipts. How much alcohol? I know we are over the limit but they are all partial bottles, some almost empty and some fuller. There are four bottles of wine, nothing else is sealed. How many milliliters in total? I have no idea. How many bottles? Maybe ten, all partially empty. Pull over to the side there and wait for an inspection. Oh Oh!
They sent us over to the side of the parking lot and four inspectors went into the motorhome. Fifteen minutes later one of them came out and tried the car door. It was locked so he came for the key. He opened all the doors and the trunk. He then pulled a cart over and emptied the trunk onto it.
After 40 minutes two of them approached us. "Here's the deal" one of them said. "You told us you had ten partial bottles of liquor. Actually you have eighteen bottles and four of them have broken seals but are effectively full. On top of the four bottles of wine you declared, you have a five liter box of wine beside the bed". I told him the box of wine had sat in the sun for a week and was probably spoiled. Norma had told me to throw it out but I didn't because I wanted to test it first and had simply forgotten about it. Sorry, but I will dump it out now. This made him laugh. I knew we were OK.
"I had to ask myself" he said, "Are these two professional smugglers or are they just lazy? I decided you were just lazy. Too lazy to actually check how much booze you had. Real smugglers would not put it all in one place in plain sight, they would hide it under the mattress and in the laundry. You did not do that so we are going to let you off. Just remember next time. We don't really care about part bottles but a part bottle is maybe half full, not 99% full. For instance, that 1.5 liter bottle of vodka you have with the $15 price tag on it is worth over $55 in Canada. The difference is taxes and that is what we could charge you. Same goes for everything else. We are not going to worry about it this time but next time, be careful, you might not be so lucky".
Wow! I thought for sure that after tying them up for three man hours of searching we were going to get nailed. The one guy who dealt with us had a bit of a sense of humor, the other three had a more serious look. I told him it was a rotating liquor cabinet. When we ran low on something we replaced it and I guess it just built up on us. We shook hands all around and drove out, complete with the five liter box of wine, which I have yet to test.
We live a charmed life.
On the downside, the place was left a mess! They went through all the food, clothes, shower, outside bins, overhead, everything. All the pottery from Mexico was left unwrapped and everything they could not get back into the trunk, they piled on the front seat. Norma is not happy. I am just happy I am at LindaLee's and not in jail.
After we parked and paid, we walked over to a little restaurant next door to have our last HUGE portion breakfast in the USA for a few months.
Norma is fretting around and making lists "just in case they ask us". My Virgin Broadband works here so I am playing on the computer.
Just a few more hours till we are back on Canadian soil!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Aboriginal band that owns the casino has a deal on right now. Buy ten gallons of gas at their gas station and they will give you $5 in free slot play and a $5 discount in any casino restaurant. We bought gas and took the receipt to the rewards desk. She gave me my $5 ticket for the slots and told me that as soon as I earned ten points to come back and she would give me another. Even a better deal!
I turned that free $10 in slot play into $19.90 cash and that added to the $5 meal discount bought us dinner at their little Italian restaurant. Well I had to add $10 of my own money but still a good deal!
I noticed they had a coin counter so we came back to the motorhome and gathered up all our USA change and I walked it back. She ran it through and handed me just under $25 for the coins.
We are trying for the 2:00 ferry tomorrow. We could not get reservations but she told us if we were in line by 10 AM we should get on. I am looking forward to seeing our DIL, LindaLee. It has been a long time!
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
When I was getting the Starchoice dish out of the car. I noticed the electric locks did not work. I then realized the parking lights were on and the battery was flat dead! I must have hit the steering wheel switch when I was loading stuff into the car this morning. Luckily, I carry a battery charger with me so I hooked it up and it will charge tonight. We don't need the car tonight anyway. Life is good!
Walmart did not have an RV bay in their lube and oil area so that is on hold again. We should have started looking earlier. We pass by a large Walmart near Portland, OR so maybe there. I want to get it done in the USA as it is much cheaper.
It was warm yesterday but turned very cold overnight! We might look for a Passport America park tonight so we can leave the electric heater(s) on all night. I miss Mexico.
We are going to try for the Thursday morning ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria. That will let us spend a couple of nights and day with our DIL, LindaLee in Shawnigan Lake and still make it home in lots of time to do our taxes. Brooks is working in Fort McMurray, Alberta and will not be home for a few more days.
Monday, April 22, 2013
We got up at eight and headed for Pendleton and it's Les Schwab Tire shop and Walmart Superstore. I want to get the tires checked and inflated properly and an oil and lube done at Walmart. We will probably spend the night if Walmart is RV friendly.
EDIT: Yes, Norma found the Pendleton Wool Factory Outlet.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Their goal was to cover one kilometer, performing scientific experiments along the way. It was hoped at the time that they would survive two to six months. These goals have been far exceeded with Opportunity covering 35.65 kilometers and Spirit, 7.73 kilometers before it went dead, probably from dust covering it's solar panels. This is an amazing feat and the scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratories have a lot to be proud of!
This was a day off for us and we did nothing! We will try to make it to Oregon tomorrow.
We then hit the road, intending to drive to Twin Falls, Idaho. Along the way, Norma started searching for RV parks in the area but nothing jumped out at her. She asked If I wanted to stop at Jackpot, NV, about 40 miles before Twin Falls where there was an $18 RV park at Cactus Pete's Casino. That sounded good to me.
There were small piles of snow along the side of the road and we drove with the heater on all the way. It spitted rain the odd time and I would not have been surprised if it had turned to snow, but it did not.
It was only about 3:00 when we stopped at Jackpot under a cold, overcast sky. There were some programs we wanted to tape so we set up the Starchoice. It started raining just before I finished. We relaxed a while and headed over to the casino at about 5:30. I put $10 into the penny slots and slowly lost it all while Norma put $80 ($20 at a time) into a Wheel of Fortune) and won $185. $100 profit, not bad.
We are now only 800 miles from the Port Angeles, WA ferry to Vancouver Island so we decided to take a day off traveling. We have six days to make it there and can drive the 800 miles easily in three or four so we can slow down a little.
The repairs to the propane are holding and we tried the generator once and it worked fine. So far, so good. Life is expensive at times, but good!
Thursday, April 18, 2013
We had an appointment for the propane leak at 1:30 Wednesday afternoon. We hung around the Oasis RV Park until noon checkout time and drove over to Double Eagle RV Service. We had to park on the street for an hour until our appointment. Norma wanted some coffee so she pushed the start button for the generator and NOTHING! I tried a couple of times and nothing for me either. Last time we used it, it was fine, maybe two weeks ago,
After my moaning and groaning it was time to move into the shop for the propane repair. It was the same line that was repaired 12.1 months ago by Camping World. The flair was bad again, cracked. This time he replaced the entire copper line and it stopped the leak. $90. Not bad.
I asked them if they knew where we could get the generator looked at and they said they did them. Great! Their Onan guy came over and checked things out, having no better luck than us. He opened the generator up and tried the start button on the unit – nothing. A couple more checks and he determined the circuit board was shot. Their local supplier did not have one and the soonest they could have one delivered was Friday, too late for us. He said Cummins might have one but I would have to go and get it myself. If I could come up with one, he would install it first thing in the morning.
We called Cummins and they had the circuit board so we drove out there to get it. The bad news is it cost $370 USA! We found the Road Runner RV Park near the RV repair place for a very reasonable $16 per night with pool and hot tub. This morning we were at Double Eagle RV repair for our 9:30 appointment and they started work. He replaced the board, I pushed the start button and it started! Success – short lived. He tried to turn it off with the switch on the generator and it would not turn off. None of the other switches would turn it off either. He told me to turn on the air conditioner and we discovered the generator, although it was running, was not putting out any power. Things were rapidly going from bad to worse! He told me the circuit board controls the output.
After a bit of head scratching, he determined that the new board was faulty and a call to Cummins told us they did not have another. Darn! “Well”, he said, “I have a similar generator that I rebuilt out back that has a new board in it. I will give you that one and I will send the bad one back to Cummins for replacement when they have one”. He called Cummins to make sure they would let me transfer the warranty from me to him. No problem.
That is what he did and it now started AND stopped and we had power in the RV. It worked! Their bill was $175 so that added to the $370 for the board came to $545. Ouch! Add the $90 Propane repair and it brought the total RV repair to $640, a sobering number.
It was noon when we got out of there and headed up I15 to 93 North. We got as far as Ely, NV and checked into the RV park at the Prospector Casino. It is a reasonable $15 per night and they gave me a coupon for a free Margarita, which by this time I needed! It was almost six hours on the road today.
chilly cold here in Ely at almost 6000 feet altitude! There is snow under the trees and on the surrounding hills. It is 59F at eight o’clock. We thought of going to the casino buffet for dinner but then decided to eat here and watch TV. Time to stop spending money for the day!
That is my story for today. I hope tomorrow will be cheaper!
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
What is wrong with installing high definition video surveillance everywhere in cities? Everyone says it is invasion of privacy but what are they really afraid of? Do they fear that some bored civil servant will call their wife and say, "I just saw your husband having lunch with a blonde". Or call your boss and say, "I saw Croft take ten minutes too long for lunch". No, they would have better things to do. Like get the plate number of the car that hit and ran after smashing into my parked car, get the face of the guy who grabbed the little girl off the street, or ran out of the school after killing twenty kids, or deposited a bomb at the marathon.
I think we would be gaining more than we would be giving up.
If anyone needs A/C repairs or any general mechanical work and are passing near Parker, AZ, consider a stop at The Front End Shop.We have used them twice for A/C repairs now, once for the Mazda and again for the Honda. They are excellent workers and will give you a square deal. We would go back again.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Sadly, we are becoming numb to these stories. Tragedies in the USA are being reported more often now, it seems, than ever before. School shootings, theater shootings, mass stabbings and now another bomb attack, this time at the Boston Marathon.
News is aggravatingly slow coming in but it looks like two bombs, enclosed in kitchen pressure cookers to inflict maximum damage were planted near the finish line. Luckily, "only" three dead, one of whom is a child. On the other hand, there have been serious injuries from shrapnel We have been watching CNN and MSNBC pretty steadily since it happened yesterday.
It is sad that people have to resort to killing and injuring random, innocent people in order to make their point. It is unknown if the attack is domestic or foreign in origin but it matters little in the end, it is terrorism either way.
We did not go downtown today so I do not know if there is an increase in police presence in Las Vegas. They are usually more sensitive here and at nearby Hoover Dam.
Here is hoping the perpetrators are caught and dealt with quickly.
Monday, April 15, 2013
We started calling repair people on Friday but ran out of time. All shops were closed for the weekend and this morning, we found Double Eagle RV Repair out on the Boulder Highway who can work on it on Wednesday afternoon. So... we will pay for a couple more nights here at the Oasis and then take the RV over to the shop, about 16 miles away, on Wednesday afternoon. Hopefully they will be able to let us stay there overnight and we can get an early start Thursday morning. It will be another run for the border.
At least the weather is nice here in Las Vegas so we can have some more pool time. No more Casinos though. I think it will be a while before I come back to Sin City!
Sunday, April 14, 2013
We had parked in the Paris Casino's self parking lot and when we walked back through the casino to the elevators we heard another good group singing oldies. We walked around until we found the lounge where they were and went in. There was a two drink minimum but the waitress said it was near the end of their performance so she would let us in for just one drink each. I had a Foster's draft and Norma a glass of wine and it was $22 plus tip. They were four old black guys and could really sing. Their Marvin Gaye songs sounded like originals. Really nice.
The Jersey Boys are performing there and I glanced at the prices for that show - $70 for the nosebleed section and $170 for the better seats.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Maybe I am growing up or maybe I am getting old. Anyway the Las Vegas I am looking for no longer exists. We came here first in around 1966, three years before we got married and four years before we had Brooks. We had hardly any money and we had a blast. Las Vegas was Fremont Street then. That is where the casinos were and where the action was. We checked into the cheapest room we could find, surprisingly NOT in a casino back then. Casino rooms were expensive. We stayed in a one or two story motel. Our budget did not allow for gambling, only cheap meals and one or two hours per day sipping drinks and watching good quality, free lounge entertainment.
Our motel had a pool and it was summer so we spent the day by the pool, ate and headed down to Fremont Street. The Golden Nugget was by far the flashiest casino back then and that was where we went. There was a singer in the lounge who was pretty good and drinks were affordable. We sat and nursed one drink for the first set. planning to do this for a couple more sets. There was a table full of friendly guys at the next table and we started chatting. They were drillers who worked in the atomic bomb testing site outside of town. Back then there were periodic tests that could sometimes actually be felt in Las Vegas. Anyway these five or six guys were in town for a couple of days and were doing their best to blow their pay cheques. They bought us a drink which made us nervous because if we bought a round of seven or eight drinks in return, that would be our budget for the night, or more. Anyway, they would not let us buy a drink and bought us several more. We had a lot of fun and listened to some great music. That is how I remembered Las Vegas.
Tonight we went back to the "Fremont Street Experience". All the old hotels are there including the Golden Nugget. Nothing else is the same though. We went to a buffet that was $32 each and not very good. Norma put $40 into the slots and got nothing out. The "Fremont Street Experience" was loud, crowded and there were panhandlers and hustlers everywhere. We did not wait for the light show, I am sure it would be anticlimactic.
It took us about an hour to drive the full length of Las Vegas Blvd. to get back to the RV park. We were planning to go to "The Strip" tomorrow but are having second thoughts...
Friday, April 12, 2013
We had researched RV parks in Las Vegas and found the Oasis is now a Passport America park but of course, when we got there we were informed they do not accept PA in March or April. Of course not, that is when all the Snowbirds are returning home and looking for a deal for a couple of days. The full rate for a standard back-in site is $48 less 10% for Good Sam. $140 for three nights after taxes.
StarChoice was a little difficult because of all the trees around our site so I ended up right against the side of our neighbors RV. I will have to beg forgiveness when they get home. I am sure I am not bothering them. It is on the side they do not use.
We sneaked a very quick (illegal) car wash on the Honda, using as little water as possible and I am happy to report all traces were evaporated in the hot 84 F sun before security made their rounds.
We will save our trip to Las Vegas Blvd until tomorrow. Maybe Fremont Street the next day.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
So what with getting up at 6:00 AM, we ate, stowed everything away and were on the road well before 9:00. We drove to Tuscon, then up to Phoenix and found Highway 60/93 to Wickenburg, AZ. where thought we would stop. However, it was only 1:00 PM when we got there so we had lunch (huge American portions so it will probably be dinner as well) and drove another 75 miles to Wikieup where there is a Passport America park, "Dazzo's Restaurant and RV Park". We pulled in, Dazzo himself walked over to the motorhome and told us the rate was $20 for full hookups C/W good WIFI. I said we were Passport America and he said, "Ten dollars then". Good deal. They have pull troughs and 30 amps.
I was tired after the drive but Norma wanted StarChoice so I got the angles from a file on the computer and looked up the park on Dishpointer.com. It gave me a satellite view of the park showing the path to the satellite straight down the side of the motorhome. I set the elevation and skew and pointed it down the side of the motorhome. I turned on the TV and the receiver and I had a picture!!! Once more I had nailed it without trying. A tiny adjustment turned my workable 77 signal strength into a fantastic 97 and we are done.
It is warm here as we are well away from the Texas cold front. It was 95 when we parked and is now 88 at 4:30. It will be a nice, quiet night!
Well, I thought Norma was safe from shopping temptations here in Wikieup. Not so! Dan, the Tie-Dye Guy has a shop right out front and Norma bought two 60's, Hippie style, tie-dye t-shirts for us. They are actually very nice and she says, "cheap" although she will not tell me how much. Dan is reading this. Hi Dan! Nice shirts! OK, where is my "Hair" record?
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
We are researching a way to get to Las Vegas. We would like to go over the Hoover Dam this time. We have always wanted to but we keep hearing rumors that RV's are banned from that route. If we drove all the way to the dam (or bridge) and got stopped, it would mean a detour back to Laughlin and then go up through Searchlight, NV.
We have now been told there is no problem with RV's but the website that has the official information is down for maintenance.
Oh well, Back to the Canucks game. Tied 1-1 going into the third period. Life is good!
EDIT: Vancouver won the game 4-1 Go Canucks!
We will head towards Tuscon but will probably stop in Wilcox, AZ where the RV park manager makes and sells wonderful pies. I like stopping there because Wilcox has limited shopping for Norma ;)
Oh, I got onto the WIFI here last night. It was a password thing. The WIFI is very fast so I updated both computers.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
As you may have noticed, we have abandoned plans to go home via South Dakota. The weather is just too unpredictable in the northern States (and even in more southern ones). Plan 2(b) is now to follow the Mexico border west towards Tucson and decide later how we will make the run north. Maybe through Las Vegas and north through Nevada. We have run into snow twice along this route but the roads have always been clear. The other option is the California route but that is not high on my list because of the high gas prices there.
The drive today was pretty brutal, as we were fighting a +/- 40 MPH headwind the whole way. I found myself with the gas floored, trying to maintain 55 – 60 MPH. We went through almost a full tank of gas ($125). I did not calculate the mileage, I don’t want to know.
We are at El Paso’s Mission RV Park, a Passport America park ($20 / night) and a regular stop for us. It has nice pull trough's and WIFI, which I can’t get on but my Virgin Broadband is working with a weak signal.
I set up the StarChoice as there are a couple of shows we want to watch later. The weather here is “blowing sand”, almost a sandstorm. The couple next to us tried to leave this morning but the wind was just too bad so they stayed another day. They are heading for Alamogordo, New Mexico but they say it is snowing there! That is a long way south for snow!
This is why we don’t make plans!
Monday, April 8, 2013
We finally got away! We left at about 9:30 and headed up I-10 towards Fort Stockton. Google Maps said it would be a four and a half hour drive but we always take longer than their estimate. I guessed six or six and a half and that is what it took. We had a half hour stop for brunch at a Cracker Barrel along the way and got here at about five.
As we were driving into town I glanced at the indoor/outdoor thermometer and it read 104F! We found the Passport America park we stayed at last year and checked in. $10 per night plus $2 if you run the A/C. It is not much of a park, just a dusty parking lot with hookups really, but our space is a pull through and it is quiet here.
Norma can smell propane in the RV when we are stopped so we will stop at a little RV repair place we passed in town in the morning. We had the same problem last year and Camping World did a repair on a pipe under the rig. It involved re-flaring a line and the tech said at the time that it might not hold and if id didn't, it would involve running a new line. We might be slow getting away tomorrow.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Rae came over this morning to say her goodbye's as she is heading to Dallas where one of her readers generously offered her a placer to park while she explores the city. She is quite happy about that. I can't believe that it has been three years since we have seen her when she spent the winter at our place.
Well, off on a quick run to Target Stores and then to watch curling.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
"But", he said. "just last year three missionaries in a motorhome were stopped in Mexico by bandits and they were all murdered"! I asked him where on earth he had heard that. He said it was on the news and he heard it in church. I told him that we and all other Mexico RV'ers keep a very close watch on the news and if that had in fact happened, we would know about it. I assured him it never happened and that he should quit watching Faux News, that they were just trying to make Americans afraid of everyone. He gave me one of those looks and wandered off, now convinced that I was either crazy or in league with the Mexican Bandit Missionary Killers.
It is amazing how many people here question our traveling in Mexico. The worst part is, most of the folks telling us they would never go there are of Mexican heritage. Unfortunately, whoever is trying to scare Americans about the "Boogie Man" across the Rio Bravo is doing a good job.
The restaurant was quite a ways away but Ms. Garmin got us there. The first thing we saw were dozens of people waiting outside! "What day is this"? someone asked. "Saturday" someone answered. The second worse day to go out for breakfast, Sunday being the worst!
We checked in and were told it would be about an hour. Oh well, we could leave and find another place but there would be a lineup there as well. Norma bought a newspaper and we found a seat. It was just over an hour before I got a text message telling me out table was ready but it was well worth the wait! All the food was delicious and the coffee was an excellent European Blend.
Ray had a "short Stack" with a side of sausage and managed to finish it. Norma had French Toast made with three thick slabs of banana bread with a side of two poached eggs. She ate the eggs and 3/4 of one slice of her french toast. The rest came home with her for our breakfast tomorrow. I had the house specialty, two huge pancakes stuffed with stewed apples with a huge dollop of whipped cream on top! It was delicious and I almost finished it off. I managed to slip a chunk onto Ray's plate and what was left went into Norma's "Doggie Bag".
We then headed to Camping World where we picked up a few things we needed, including a new sewer hose and a fluorescent light for the kitchen to replace the one that burned out in Mexico. Rae failed to find new knobs for her Atwood stove but did manage to get the stock numbers for them so she can order them online or at least call ahead to other RV supply places for them. They have proven hard to find.
Tomorrow we head out. We are going to have to start putting some miles on but Norma wants to stop at Fredericksburg, TX which is only one hour north! I will be behind her hurrying her along but rushing her is like herding cats.
It will be an interesting day!
Friday, April 5, 2013
I will never better my best time which was once when I put the dish together, pointed it in the general direction of the satellite, went in to turn on the TV and it was working! I had nailed it without any searching whatsoever! Blind luck that will only happen once in a lifetime.
After a congratulatory beer, we all headed out for the local Cracker Barrel Restaurant. Norma had pork chops, Rae, the ham and I satisfied my winter long craving for catfish! A great dinner. We got home early, said goodnight to Rae and retired early. A perfect day!
It is a little cooler here than in Laredo, a trend that will continue as we head north. Our friend Brian emailed to remind me that it might be a little early in the year to avoid snow on our planned Route through Deadwood, SD so we are now considering one of the old standby routes through Albuquerque where my friend Pat tells me the wind is blowing. Maybe this time it will be a tail wind!.
* My worst time was at Mr. Moro RV park on the west coast of Mexico when I could not find a signal at all. I tried for three days as did two other RV's. Another rig pulled in with an automatic StarChoice dish on the roof. He turned it on and it was still searching the next day. We had a wide open, unobstructed view of the sky and clear weather. It must have been a UFO thing. Or maybe CIA.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
April 4, 1969
?, Uncle Danny, ?
We had toasters and everything already so our friends put cash into a pot and we used the money for a trip to Arizona in June. We went in June because the hotels were all on summer rates so we stayed in a $49 (high season rate) resort for $19 per night.
We will be in San Antonio tomorrow night and Norma wants to go out for dinner there so that is where we will celebrate! Our friend Rae is there so hopefully she will join us!
My friend Brian of Brian and Sue emailed to tell me we will be running into some snow along that route so we are re-thinking! We do not "do" snow any more, we dealt with it enough when we lived on the Alaska / BC border.
Don't worry Rae, we will still be in San Antonio tomorrow night.
Tomorrow morning we will make the short drive to San Antonio where there is a camping World where we have to buy a new florescent light fixture for the kitchen and a new sewer hose C/W ends. After that we will have to average about 3 hours driving per day to make it home by tax time.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
No driving several blocks, no waiting in line and I did it on my own computer from Laredo, Texas! Why can't they come up with a similar method to vote for our Governments? Send everyone on the voters list a PIN number and then for a reasonable period of time (maybe a week) you go onto a website and vote. People without a computer could do it from libraries or from kiosks set up in public areas like malls, soup kitchens, universities. You could even vote from work.
Maybe for older people or those who do not trust computers or those who are not on the voters list you could still have a physical polling place where you could register and get a paper ballot. Funny, I still talk of "older people" and here I am pushing 70.
Anyway, I want to vote online for online voting! I think voter turnout would increase and we would get a better idea of what the people really want. Plus, it is harder to suppress voters when you cannot confront people personally.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
I was returning in the Honda from the Target store down the road where I found some shorts on sale. I made the turn out of the store and almost immediately a huge, black SUV with tinted windows pulled up dangerously close behind me. I was going slower than the surrounding traffic so I just kept going. About a block later his light bar lit up and his siren came on. He was Texas Highway Patrol and he was after me!
I pulled over onto the shoulder and he parked behind me. I got out my drivers licence and Insurance papers while he sat there in his truck. He then got out and slowly walked behind the car. Big guy... big truck, sunglasses, gun... He came up on the passenger side as I lowered the window. He stooped down and I said, "Sorry, but I really do not know what I did wrong". He answered, "The reason I stopped you was that I could not read your licence plate. I could not see where you are from so I thought I better check you out to see if it was a legal plate". I laughed and told him British Columbia, Canada. He said he finally read that after he stopped me. He said, "You did nothing wrong, it was my mistake and I apologize. Have a nice day and enjoy your stay" He walked away without even checking my licence. He even called me "Sir".
I think what he saw on my plate was the word, "Columbia" and he thought, "I am going to give this drug smuggling, South American terrorist a hard time", and then he discovered I was a harmless Canadian. I guess I am partially to blame as the rear plate has the same sun damage as the entire car had before the paint job so the colors are not easily discernible. Plus, the car was pretty dirty, a problem I fixed as soon as I got home.
DWL = Driving While Latino. A serious crime in these parts and an invitation to get pulled over if for no other reason.
Monday, April 1, 2013
It was OK. We know where everything is on the Mexico side and we turned in our FMM's (personal six month visas) and the permit on the Honda. Everyone is very nice on the Mexican side. Friendly, smiling, helpful and anxious to hear how we liked Mexico and to ask when we will be back. "Why are you going back to Canada"? the woman in Passport Control asked. "It is too cold there"! A real contrast to the grim looks and sour faces on the USA side.
Then we crossed the dreaded bridge over the Rio Bravo (Mexico's name for the river known in the USA as the Rio Grande). There were no signs, even after I was promised by Border Patrol services that they would pass on my concerns when I wrote my letter last year. It was obvious that commercial trucks went right and cars went straight. Anyone's guess where RV's go. I pulled over between the bridge and the commercial truck turn and waited with my flashers going while Norma walked up to the crossing and asked. She was told to get her passport and walk through with the pedestrian traffic while I went to the truck crossing by myself. No reason given for this, even when she asked.
I went to the truck booth, handed over my passport and waited while he played on his computer for a good five minutes. He leaned out and asked me how far south in Mexico we had gone and I told him Puebla. A lie, I realized later, because we had gone as far as Oaxaca. Anyway, he handed me a piece of paper and told me to go to the X-Ray building where I was sixth in line.
While I waited I read the paper I had been given. It informed me that I had been flagged by the Homeland Security Anti-Terrorism And Contraband Team for an "Intensive Examination" WTF? I'm not a terrorist, I'm a tourist! I wish I was back in Mexico!
I finally got to the X-Ray booth, parked, turned off the engine, walked back to the entrance and handed my "Scarlet Letter" to the operator in his little lead encased booth. He told me to step back outside the door while he fired up his robot. It slowly scanned from both sides and he called me over. "What is the storage tank under the dinette seat"? "The fresh water tank", I answered. "Where are the batteries"? "Under the stairs". "Where are the sewage tanks"? "Underneath, near the back". "What is the large mass above the driver's seat"? "Our extra fridge". He had another long look at the X-Ray image, typed a few things into my file, handed me my exit slip and sent me on my way to pick Norma up at the exit of the huge complex where she was waiting, thankfully under an overcast sky and not in the blazing sun. No questions about potatoes, limes, booze. Nothing. Fifty minutes had elapsed since Norma left me and started walking to the pedestrian crossing. Not bad. It took our friends Brian and Sue two hours to do the same thing about six weeks ago.
We drove into Laredo, stopping at Radio Shack to renew my USA Virgin Broadband and at HEB Groceries for a minor stock up. Butter, margarine, doughnuts, bread, eggs. Wow! Groceries are more expensive here! We then checked into the Casa Blanca State Park for three nights at $26 per night for water and electric (there is a dump on the way out). Norma wants to record some stuff on TV and we need to check out weather forecasts to find a warm route home.