Friday, July 31, 2009

The Little Things

Today my only real job was to wire the new Oven. Not a big deal as I know enough about electricity to be careful and keep myself out of big trouble. The wiring harness that comes from the new oven was standard 240 volt - white (neutral), black (L1) and red (L2) along with the standard bare copper ground wire. The old oven however had five wires going to it - green, white, red, yellow and beige (maybe orange - it is faded). I stapled all these wires to a board to minimize sparks, flipped the breaker on and started testing. The green was obviously ground as it was tied down to the oven cabinet. One down. The white turned out to be neutral as it should be. Two down. The yellow tested out to be one of the "hot" leads and the beige the other. I got 120 volts between the white and the yellow and 120 between the white and beige. Beige to yellow gave me 240 volts so that proved everything I needed to make the new oven work. I have no idea what the red was for and really did not care so I turned the breaker back off and taped up the red and put it aside. The cable from the new oven was too short to reach the box that the old oven was wired from so I installed a new box at the end of the new BX cable and ran the old BX cable that used to go to the old oven to my new box and connected everything together. It may not be "code" color wise, but it works and it is safe. I still have no idea where those colors came from. If anyone knows, let me know.

Kitchen Chores

When we bought the house in 1989 we installed a new Maytag dishwasher. It has served us well for twenty years and was still working but obviously reaching the end of it's dishwasher life span. The wall oven that sits directly above it was in the house when we bought it and is of unknown vintage. Norma was complaining that it had "cold spots" inside and did not bake properly. She may have been using some creativity in her description because she has been hinting for a modern stainless steel oven for some years now. We are also thinking of replacing the linoleum kitchen floor with tiles and that would raise the floor level so much that it would make it difficult to remove the dishwasher. Now was the time!

A week or so ago we went out and invested some of the family fortune on brand new stainless steel replacements, Maytag for the dishwasher and GE for the oven. We worked all day Wednesday on getting the old appliances out of their tight little cubbyhole. It was quite a struggle with a little cursing and a few cuts on the hands but they finally ended up on the driveway and Norma found a job of cleaning the old space of 25 or 30 years of dust, crumbs, cobwebs, various droppings and even one warfarin impregnated little four legged corpse(!) These little critters are not rare if you live near the sea and every once in a while we find traces of them in the crawl space. We set out bait and that is the end of them. This guy was searching for a quiet place to croak and managed to get up through the hole cut in the floor for the plumbing of the dishwasher. I did not need Las Vegas CSI to tell me he had been there for a very long time. Yuk!

Yesterday we started installing the new units. It was a tight squeeze but they went in. The dishwasher, although having a larger interior capacity than the old one was actually a bit smaller outside than it's predecessor. This is in thanks to most part to more efficient insulation and the fact that the motor compartment is much smaller. The cutout in the cabinets was not quite deep enough so I cut out the drywall behind it and shaved an inch off the studs in the now exposed wall. This gave me what I needed and allowed for better air circulation behind the units. I then built a 2 X 4 frame around the dishwasher to support the wall oven that went in next. It was a much tighter squeeze but it finally went in as well.

The dishwasher is done except for a few screws that go in around the open door frame to hold it in place and then the oven has to be wired. The cable that came attached to the new oven does not quite reach the electrical box so I will have to do some inventive wiring. That, along with testing everything, is today's project. The final oak trim will wait a few days as we have a wedding to go to on the weekend. I need a vacation!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Arco Norte Part Two

It appears that the Mexican SCT or Secretariat Of Communications and Transportation, has kept their promise to complete the Arco Norte by the end of July. This new system of modern high speed highways will allow a traveler to bypass Mexico City to the North. We can now exit Mex 57D just south of Queretaro and join Mex 150D just west of Puebla. All information is in Spanish of course but it appears that the highway is 223 Km long and has twelve toll plazas. Toll for the section from Queretaro to Puebla will be about $50 - $60 USA which, believe me, is cheap.

The Government has placed a map on the Internet here: Link The dots in yellow are working Casitas (toll booths) and the ones in gray are still under construction. This site is in Spanish but a I did a little digging around in it and came up with this Google Map complete with a short video of the route. Now if I could only figure out how to save the map...

The map is not very detailed but gives the general idea. The highway also extends past Queretaro to the West to bypass the awkward area around Toluca that we found our way through last year, which you can read about here.

Here is a link to my previous post on Arco Norte: Link

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthday Party!

Saturday night was Norma's Birthday Party. Brooks and Linda drove up from Victoria with Jayde and Sierrah and many friends dropped over. Jayde counted 27 guests throughout the evening. It was a beautiful day with the temperature hovering around 30 degrees until the sun went down. We then lit up the patio heater that Brooks and Linda bought us a few weeks ago and it took enough of the chill off that everything was very comfortable. It is so nice to have a large outside area where everyone can relax and visit. It was a great time! Thanks everyone! I will be eating leftovers for a couple of days.

That is Norma at the bottom right getting her cake served by Jayde and Sierrah (with Linda the cake baker watching).

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Busy As A Bee

Everybody's working in the garden!

Click on the photo for a closeup.

Not bad but it would have been a lot better if I had used my tripod! But then again, the bee might not have had enough patience for that.

Happy Days Are Here Again!

The optimists at the Bank Of Canada have declared an end to the recession in Quarter 3! The TSE rose sharply by 243 points today on this news. They also declared that the recovery in Canada would be faster and higher than in it would be in the USA. This news also caused the Loonie to rise to $.92 to the USA dollar. What does this mean? It means we are going to have a really good time in Mexico this winter. It means I will be able to take some profits out of the market soon and pay off my line of credit where the new motorhome has been sitting for 16 months. It means we can replace the stove and dishwasher. Happy days are here again!

Now we wait to see if they know what they are talking about.

And in the meantime.... Una cerveza, por favor..

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

White Rose

Norma has been unsuccessful in producing white roses this year This one is from the archives but has a timeless beauty. It was taken with my old Nikon FE2 and Tokina Macro lens on Fuji Velvia film (remember film?) and scanned into a TIFF file. If you click on it you will see a few dust specs introduced in the scanning process. Things are so much easier now that we are in the digital age!

Merida Flowers Show

Our friends Jonna and Mimi in Merida have been posting some fantastic shots of their lilies and orchids on their Blog. They had some water gardens and planters included in their house design and the results are nothing less than spectacular! Do yourself a favor and have a look at their site.

Jonna's photography has spurred me on to take more photos of my own in the garden.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Patio Inspiration

We used to have a six person hot tub. Back in the early 90's when it was new we used it a lot, at least three or four times a week, but as the years passed it saw less and less use. At the end it got to the point that it hardly ever got used. The granddaughters liked it when they visited in the summer but other than that Norma and I only used it a couple of times a year. It got hard to justify the waste of electricity and the high chemical costs to keep it going, never mind the maintenance. When the pump failed a year ago and we were given a $1000 estimate for repairs it was just the excuse we were looking for and we had it hauled away to the dump. This gave us the use of the 12 X 12 cement deck it was sitting on. We have since built a pergola over this deck and it is where my Yucatan hammock swings.

This left the upper patio with the old hot tub wiring sticking up out of the cement. I could not think of anything to do with it so it just stayed there waiting to be tripped over. Yesterday inspiration struck. I made a box 17 inches high out of left over cedar fence boards and wired in a patio light, switch and outlet. It is the perfect height for my glass of red wine to rest on between sips! Life Is Good!

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Saturday, July 18, 2009


I posted these with Picasa rather than with Windows Live Writer. Picasa allows a much larger file to be uploaded and you can see the results of this if you click on one of the flowers. The yellow rose works best.

Both photos were taken with my Nikon D70S and Tamron 90mm "True" Macro lens.
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A Great Week

Finally! A great week in the markets. Two more weeks like the last one will pay for my winter in Mexico! My net worth chart is actually heading north for a change. Some day it might actually get back to where it was when all this started. So, have you got that Mr. Dow and Mr. TSE? Two more great weeks! I would even settle for ten more good weeks. Just make sure you finance my winter.

I have a prediction, actually two. One, the market will continue it’s upward trend and the third quarter will be looked back on as the start of the 2009 recovery. Two, what we are seeing now is yet another Dead Cat Bounce and as soon as the Bears come to their senses the market will take another plunge in it's continuing search for the bottom.

No matter which of these scenarios shows itself to be true, I will be able to say I am correct half the time which is better than 90% of the so-called advisers these days. Either way, Quicken looks pretty good and has stopped giving me dire warnings of my vanishing net worth. For now, Life Is Good!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Eyeballs and Stuff

When I bought my glasses in Algodones, Mexico last November they did a test that checked the pressure inside my eyeballs by blowing a puff of air at my eye and measuring the amount of deflection. After doing the test he told me to relax a bit and walk around. He then re-did the test and told me that he detected a "pequeño problema", a small problem. The pressure in one eye was higher than the other. He said it was not something to worry about but I should have it checked when I got home.

A couple of weeks ago I made an appointment with my local optometrist. She went through a large battery of tests, including the same one they did in Mexico. Another test was a Fields Test where you look into a box and press a button every time you see a flash that moves around the field of vision. She told me I had some minor sun damage and that the pressure was the same in both eyes but at the top of the “normal” range. I had also come close to failing the Fields Test with my left eye.

While I was there she inspected my glasses and said, “Did you buy these in Mexico?”. “Si, Mexico”, I said. She asked how much I paid and I told her $200 including the exam. She said she could not even buy the glass for that. She said they were very good quality but had no coating and that next time I should get them coated.

She then referred me to a specialist in Courtenay. This, of course, does not happen right away. They make you sweat it out for two weeks, time which I spent shopping for white canes on eBay.

The other day I drove down to Courtenay where they did the pressure thing with the blast of wind again and then did the same test with a different machine that actually pushes on the eyeball! They gave me the Fields Test again only with a much fancier machine. When they were done she told me she would send the results back to my doctor but not to expect a call from her. I guess she was telling me that I had passed! I am going to have to start wearing sun glasses to prevent further sun damage but otherwise I got a clean bill of eyeball health! Life Is Good!


Thursday, July 16, 2009

ShoutBox Added

I have added ShoutBox to the Blog. Just type your name and website or Blog address if any (otherwise leave the "Website" part blank) type a short message in the "message" box and click "Shout". This is just an experiment to see if it will spur any of you who are reluctant to leave a comment or GuestBook entry to say "Hi". I am always very curious to see who is reading the Blog. Humor me!

I am also trying to change the layout to a three column format. You will see some changes while I experiment with this.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Farmers Market

I went down to the Farmers Market with Norma today so I could try out my new Tokina 12 - 24mm f/4 Wide Angle lens. It is VERY wide and will take a little getting used to. I had a Tokina lens before and this one is just as solid feeling as the last one. It is very heavy compared to most of the new lenses but this gives it a very solid feel. It is made out of steel and titanium instead of plastic and I am happy with the purchase. It will come in very handy in Mexico. Here are a couple of shots I took today. Both were taken at the 12mm setting, the widest setting for the lens.

Campbell River Farmers Market

Farmers Market 12mm

Discovery Passage

Discovery Passage 12mm

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Today's project was a little less technical than yesterdays! Today we stained much of the patio furniture. We have a lot of wood patio furniture, some came with us when we moved from Terrace in 1989, some Norma bought during her years at Forest Renewal BC and some we bought from friends here in Campbell River. The one thing all the pieces have in common is a need for regular maintenance.

We scraped, wire brushed and sanded to get the old "stuff" off and rolled and brushed a new coat of stain on. Three boards on the ancient picnic table were in sad shape so I made a quick trip to the local building supply to buy new ones. It was a long day and now that we are finished my knees, ankle and back hurt. All I want to do is flop into my favorite chair and watch TV tonight. Some days I feel young and some days I feel old. Today is one of the later..

My hands are staining but my mind is dreaming of Mexico.............

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Flaky TV Switch Box

The motorhome is equipped with a Winegard Video Distribution Switch. You know, the box that sits under the TV and lets you send satellite to the front TV and the DVD player to the rear or any other combination of cable, off air, DVD, VCR or satellite that you may want. Last year we had problems with the distribution system. The rear TV stopped receiving a signal from the box so I "fixed" the problem by doing a bunch of temporary rewiring and bypassing of components and built-in wiring to get the rear TV "sort of" functioning again. The result was a jumbled up mess of wires behind the switch box with nothing marked and me with no memory of what I did several months ago. It was a mess!

Today was the day to fix it. First I wired the StarChoice receiver directly to the front TV, bypassing the switch box and all the built-in wiring and tested it. I discovered that the receiver's 75 ohm output was cutting out intermittently! It seemed to clear by re-booting the receiver but this would be disastrous if it failed while we were in Mexico because Starchoice, as good as they are in allowing their signal to be used outside of Canada, will not ship equipment outside of Canada. I found a new receiver at London Drugs on sale for $99 which I bought and installed. It is a newer model than the one I had and has some of the newer features that are on the high definition receiver in the house. The old receiver went into the bedroom in the house where I can whack it when it acts up.

I also bought some contact cleaner spray and a couple of short 75 ohm cables. I sprayed a ton of contact cleaner into any crevice in the switch box that I could find and exercised the buttons like crazy. I then started by getting the front TV working with all the outputs and then moved on to the bedroom and outside TV hookup. It took all day but I finally succeeded in getting everything back to the way it was when the rig was new. We will no longer have wires running down the hall to be able to watch TV in the bedroom or the cable from the dish running through the driver's door.

While I was at it I hooked up a (very) small home theatre sound system to the front TV to improve the sound quality. It now sounds much better than the tiny built-in speakers did. The TV amplifier is still used as a pre-amp and is controlled by the volume control on the TV remote just to keep everything simple. A good day's work.

If there is anything left on my TV system wish list, it might be a larger TV for the front. The one I bought earlier this year is a 20' Wide Screen but there is room for a larger one. If prices keep dropping, I just might do the upgrade next summer. In the meantime, Life Is Good!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Starchoice Dish

You may remember the Starchoice dish that got blown over and broken two years ago in San Miguel de Alende. It was a bit of a comedy trying to get it fixed in Mexico but we finally succeeded and it got us through the rest of that trip. When we got home we ordered the larger dish which we have been using in the motorhome ever since. The larger dish is much easier to aim.

The old repaired dish was taking up space in my workshop so I decided to mount it to the side of the workshop to use in the motorhome when it is parked at home. This was my project today. I screwed the mount to the end of the building and climbed up on the roof where, with the help of my neighbour, I mounted the dish and found the signal. I then ran some cable down, ending near the electrical box where we hook the motorhome up.

This was not anything that had to be done but it will be convenient once in a while and it got the old dish out of my somewhat cramped 10 X 12 workshop. Now I just have to clean out a ton of other junk so Rae will be able to use the shop to do some work on her motorhome while she is staying here this winter. The way it is now you can hardly find the workbench. This is going to become a major project but something that has to be done.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hail Storm

About midnight last night I was awakened by a viscous hailstorm! It was just pounding down and then came the thunder and lightening. One lightening strike sounded like it was very close to the house and when I got up this morning the modem to my computer was dead.

I called repair service and was given the old "We will be there in three days" routine but I still know some people in the central office so I made a phone call and within an hour I had a new modem installed!

I am back on line! Life Is Good!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Wide Angle Lens

I bought myself a decent wide angle lens today. It is a Tokina ATX PRO 12 – 24 mm f/4 DX zoom. This will allow me to make much better photographs of the fascinating streets and buildings of Mexico. Ever since my 18 – 70 Nikon "Kit" lens fell victim to internal dust over a year ago I have had nothing to experiment with this type of photography. The estimate for repairs to that lens was more than the cost to replace it! This new Tokina is a much better lens.

I tend to be a little anal over this type of a purchase and have spent several days on the Internet reading every review and user opinion I could find on this lens and it's competition. It tests out better than both the other third party lenses in this focal range and is almost equal to the Nikon brand lens at much less than half the cost. A perfect fit for me. Back in my film camera days my wide angle was my most used lens and I have been wanting one for a long time. It is just hard to justify the expense sometimes.

Today my mission was finding the best price which I did at $399 USA from It is being delivered from the USA so it will take a couple of weeks or so to get here. At least allows you to track the shipment so that will give me something to do for a few days. I ordered a multicoated filter to protect the glass from eBay. Almost free.

Tokina 12 24

Friday, July 3, 2009

TLC For The Honda

The poor neglected old 89 Honda got some much deserved attention today. It was my dad's car which I inherited in perfect condition in 1997 with only 30,000 KMs on it. Since then I have put an additional 220,000 KMs on it and done only the minimum amount of maintenance. The old girl simply refuses to quit. It has been dragged behind the motorhome across North America several times on it's dolly and another two times through Mexico. If the front end has 250,000 KMs on it, the rear end must have close to 300,000.

Last year in Mexico it started boiling over. If faced with any kind of an uphill run the temperature gauge would peg on the "hot" side and it would boil over. This *might* have been because the anti-freeze was twenty years old. Because of this we started carrying a couple of gallons of water in the trunk. The tires had 110,000 KMs on the front and close to 150,000 KMs on the back so it was time to pay some attention to her!

Today I treated the lady to a new set of tires and a radiator flush. She was very grateful and promised to perform well once again in Mexico this winter. If she does she just may get her two little spots of rust fixed and a new Mexican paint job.

Nice new shoes!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eye Candy


Norma’s garden has been doing unbelievably well this summer. I think she finally got the deer situation under control by ringing the flower gardens with bars of soap and moth balls. This is the latest artillery she has used in her war and it seems to be having the desired effect. Failed solutions have included preserved animal blood at $60 a bottle – if she had told me how much that cost I would have cut my own throat to save the money! She also tried chicken wire and piling lawn furniture around the beds to no avail. Next came a BB gun used on their butts only. Her most inventive effort was having me pee all around the flower beds. This display provided great entertainment for the ladies in the condo next door who went running for their cameras and binoculars. I appreciated the attention but cannot imagine why binoculars would be necessarysmile_omg.

ON EDIT: I spoke too soon! The night after I took this photo this, and other, flowers became a midnight snack for some deer who had overcome their dislike of soap and mothball odor.

26,000 Visitors and Beginning Winter Plans

This humble Blog is going to hit 26,000 visits today! When you add the number of hits on my old Blog that chronicled our 2006 - 2007 Mexican tour it totals over 41,000! This is very humbling for me and to think that I could come up with enough content to keep people coming back is almost beyond belief! It started as simply a way to let friends and family keep track of us as we headed off into the unknown wilds of Mexico for the first time. People started forwarding it to others and readership started growing exponentially up to the point where it is now.

Many of you have stuck with me even after we got home from our latest Mexican adventure, perhaps in the hopes that we will soon head off for another. We will be doing that in late October and things will get a little more interesting on the site.

Plans Are Starting!

We are starting to make plans for the next trip. Luck came our way a couple of weeks ago when Rae, a fellow RVer and Blogger who is full-timing in Canada expressed an interest to come to Vancouver Island for the winter. We immediately offered a parking place at our house where we have an RV hookup and this offer was quickly accepted. This will keep our house insurance company happy and she will have access to my workshop to perform some modifications to her motorhome. A win - win situation!