Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Dutch Friends

Long time readers will remember PJ and Claudia, the Dutch couple we met in Mexico. Some of you even know them. They retired very young and are world travelers, touring in a truck and camper. They have spent extended periods in Africa, South America, Alaska, the USA and Mexico. They have just left Alaska and are back in Holland for a visit.

They have a professional wildlife photography business that helps supplement their income and have just posted some fantastic photos of the northern lights along with a story of their adventures (and vehicle problems) driving from Fairbanks to Calgary. I am sure you will find their story as fascinating as I have. Here is their website that is written like a Blog.

Here is a sample from their site:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Golden Redemption

A week ago I was whining about losing $5,000 on my gold shares. Well, that water passed under the bridge and today I am up $6,500 on the same shares. I made my money back and then some, just the way it should work.

I really hate these roller-coaster gyrations the market is going through lately. I would be so happy if it would just settle down into a slow and gentle upward movement. I am not greedy, just give me a good return on my investment. It is money I worked for and saved, multiplied by a few good investments over the years.

Like I have said before, we do not need this money for day to day living. Our various pensions take care of that. This nest egg is for extraordinary expenses, one of which will take place next summer when I will finally have to replace my 24 year old Honda Accord. I have not bought a new vehicle in years and will not this time either. We have friends whose son is the manager of the local Honda dealer. Two years ago he called to tell me he had a used car in perfect condition that was just too old for them to sell on the lot. It was going out to auction and he was giving me a chance to buy it cheap. He said it was a car he would sell to his mother (and I know he loves his mom). I will call him and tell him to watch out for another for me.

The Honda has been giving us problems starting the odd time. It would be repairable but I just don't want to spend money on it. 24 years is long enough for a Honda. We will leave it home this year and tow Norma's Mazda 626 down to Mexico. It is slightly heavier and slightly wider so it will not be quite as easy to load and tow. The A/C does not work either but we will be in the USA where we can get it repaired much easier than in Canada. Canada has tons of rules when dealing with A/C chemicals that the USA does not have. It will be a much cheaper fix in the States.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Game Seven!

I am not a huge baseball fan. I like the Seattle Mariners and follow them as far as they go but then my interest tapers off. I usually watch at least part of the final World Series games just to say I did. This year I watched a couple of games but missed last night's when St. Louis had their great comeback game to tie the series. It was a bad game to miss! Tonight is Game Seven and I am watching!

I am cheering for St. Louis. No special reason. I grew to like Texans last winter. All but two - George Bush and Rick Perry. So I am cheering for St. Louis. Yes, I guess everything DOES have to be political!

EDIT: Well, how about that! They won! This is one of the very few times any team I have cheered for has made it all the way. I usually pick the underdog and usually take my licks. It is nice being here in the winners circle this time!

Packing The Motorhome

Well, that was Norma's last dental appointment. Seven hours driving and five minutes in the chair. He did not replace the post that broke and caused the infection. He wants to give it a couple of months for the bone to heal so she will have to live with what she has over the winter. They fit and work fine without it. There was no charge for the repairs.

Linda asked Norma how long it will take her to load the motorhome and get ready to leave and she said "two weeks". We started today and hopefully it will only take one week. Our housesitter moves in today. Poor guy. Rae remembers what that was like. He will be recruited to help.

Norma: "Croft, can you bring in all the silverware, plates, pots and pans and wash them all?". It was posed as a question but was really a command. I know my place.

Croft: "Yes dear".

Croft: "Do we really need place settings for 12? There are only two of us and the extras weigh a ton".

Norma: "We might have company".

Croft: "We have never had 12 for dinner and can only seat 4 anyway. If we have more than two guests we can ask them to bring their own plates and cutlery".

Norma: "That would be rude".

Croft: "Do we need four frying pans plus the electric one?  We only have three burners and we only used the medium one all last year".

Norma: "Yes, I need them all".

Croft: "Do we need eight pots? We only have three burners."

Norma: "OK, two of them are the same size so leave one at home."

YAHOO!! SUCCESS!!!! I downsized by one pound!!!!!! Pour me a scotch!!!

One day down and six (or thirteen) to go!

I can't wait to question her about the four sets of bedding and twelve pillow cases. And the three can openers, four wooden spoons, three garlic presses, five wine openers.........

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quick Note To Kay

from the guestbook. You will be able to get your heart medication in Mexico and you will find it a lot cheaper as well. All cities and grocery stores have pharmacias. You will have no problem with your 28' Allegro and there are lots of RV parks or trailer parks as they usually call them. Just buy a copy of the Church's book before you leave. It has descriptions of and directions to every RV park in Mexico. Get the book before you leave. It is not available in Mexico.

Down Island Again

Norma has another dentist appointment in Victoria at 12:30 tomorrow so we will be away from here by 7:30 or 8:00 am. That will get us there in time for lunch before she goes in. We will spend the night at Brooks and Linda's tomorrow night.

Brooks has inherited my chronic back problem and is suffering from a really bad sciatic nerve right now. They own their business so he does not qualify for Workers Compensation so he is toughing it out with Linda doing most or all of the lifting. His chiropractor and doctor are both telling him to take a week off and rest it but that is not in the budget right now. He is alternating soaks in the hot tub with ice packs right now to try to control it.

Life goes on.

Rina Heading ToThe Yucatan

Hurricane Rina is scheduled to hit the East coast of the Yucatan on Thursday morning. It is expected to be a CAT 3 hurricane by that time. It looks like it will mostly miss Cuba except for a lot of rain on the Havana end of the island.

I switched maps. Jonna had a better one so I "borrowed" it from her!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Smart" Power Meters


My gold stocks took a $5,000 hit last week. Gold stocks have been lagging a little behind the price of gold but I guess they caught up. I am hanging in there as I think the price will recover over the next few weeks. The part of my portfolio that is not gold made a small profit but nowhere near enough to cancel that hit! I can't complain too much though, I bought it long before the start of this chart.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Missed It Again, Harold!

Harold Camping, the bible thumping radio preacher who mis-predicted the end of the world back in May, has done it again. He said he made a mistake on the May date but was pretty sure the end of the world would actually be on October 21 (today). Well it is 4:00 here and the world as we know it is still spinning. No rapture has taken place that I have noticed, at least I am still here. Well, that is hardly a test because I would be here anyway but I don't think anyone else has been raptured. If you have been, let us know.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

If It Isn't One Thing, It's Another!

We are in Victoria where Norma's implant specialist is. She was having some problems with her replacement implants. He poked around and discovered two of the five implanted rods are damaged. One was loose and came out with a tug and the other was broken and causing infection. He got all the pieces out and gave her antibiotics and another appointment in a week. I suspect it will be two more appointments after that so there goes three weeks! She was in the chair for three hours! I hope this is a warranty job!

And it is getting cold up here!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's A Bejesus And Has Anyone Seen Mine?

I didn't say anything at the time but my little trip to the doctor three weeks ago scared the bejesus out of me! Like most men of a certain age, I have an annual PSA test. "Normal" or "Safe" for a man my age is below 4.5 (the further below the better) and I have always been 1.3 to 1.5. Nothing to worry about. Safe. Healthy. Perfect.

A couple of days after my last blood test my doctor called me in to tell me my latest result was 11.5, way up in the flashing red light range! I felt fine, he gave me the finger (a physical exam) and said it felt "OK" to him too, BUT... I had to wait two weeks and get another lab test. This has been the toughest three weeks I have gone through in a long time. I now know exactly what it feels like waiting for the jury to come back after you have been tried for a crime you did not commit.

I went to the doctor this morning and the last result was 1.5, right back in extremely safe territory! A perfect ass!

What caused it? No one knows. Error in the lab? Unlikely but maybe. According to the doctor it was more likely a slight infection that I did not know about. Anyway, it was a tough three weeks that I would not wish on anyone!

Well, back to getting ready for Mexico!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Price Of Drugs Drops In Canada

I am taking one Lipitor pill per day for cholesterol. When I started taking them about four years ago the cost in Canada was about $3 per pill. Norma has a medical plan that supplements our Canadian plan that I could put in a claim from. We have a $300 deductible before they start paying. I started searching out cheaper sources and found that I could buy them in Mexico for about $0.80 per pill without a prescription. Doing an Internet search I found the pills at an online pharmacy in India for $0.38 per pill, again with no prescription required! I started ordering them from India and did so for more than two years. It cost me about $160 per year after shipping costs. My doctor knew what I was doing and monitored my cholesterol to ensure the pills were doing what they were supposed to do, which they were.

When I put my order in to India earlier this year I was informed that, because of closer scrutiny and many seizures by Canada Customs, the pharmacy was no longer shipping to Canada. Darn! My prescription had also been changed from 10mg to 20mg per day so this would make them more expensive from all sources.

I went to the doctor and got a prescription for a couple of months to get enough pills to get into Mexico where I would stock up with a year's supply. I went to the local pharmacy and was surprised to find that they had switched to a generic which was not previously available and that the cost was only $0.69 per 20mg pill! That is much cheaper than Mexico and probably comparable to India after shipping costs are included!

I would not even want to guess the cost in the USA.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

RV Cleaning

Well, it has started! This morning we emptied the motorhome of everything we could. This included all the cupboards, all the bins stored in the overhead area, all the maps and tour books and all the towels and bedding. This afternoon I removed all the Fantastic Fan and exhaust fan covers and Norma and Nancy, our cleaning lady, cleaned everything in the place! It took them about five hours but it is spotless. Tomorrow I will put the fan covers back on and maybe replace the noisy bathroom fan with a silent computer case fan that uses hardly any power and can be left on all night to move air through the bedroom. There is no ceiling fan in the bedrome and when the weather gets hot it can get very stuffy back there. This little fan can be left on even when boondocking.

We have a couple of things left to do here and should be ready to head south the first week of November. I am getting anxious! There was frost on the lawn this morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Making It Tough On RV'ers

A middle aged couple from the USA has just done something really stupid and something that has the potential for making life more difficult for all of us who tour Mexico. They rolled their motorhome over in Northern Mexico and when the police investigated, they found TWO TONS of marijuana hidden in a false ceiling of the rig. Gee, I wonder why it tipped over!

It remains to be seen if this incident will make for more and slower inspections of RVs along the way but it sure does not help the rapport we have built up over the years. When we pull up to an inspection station there is usually just a quick glance at our passports and maybe a quick look inside and we are on our way. Everyone is smiling and friendly as they do not expect old farts like us to be drug smugglers. This incident may change things and with so many places in an RV to hide stuff, inspections could take a lot of time. People are such idiots!

Travel Plans

A couple of readers have asked me about our plans this year, Sorry I have not been posting much but things are a little up in the air right now.

We are going to Mexico but have been slightly delayed by a couple of minor medical glitches. We both have appointments in the next week or two to tie up some loose ends and then we can start loading the motorhome. As usual, we will head down I-5 and CA 99 to Yuma where we, or at least Norma. will get new glasses. Mine still seem fine but maybe I will slip in to have my prescription checked in the next week. From Yuma, we will cross at Lukeville but after that plans are loose, just the way I like them. My niece will not be in Mazatlan this year as George got a lucrative fiber optic contract in Texas so it looks like they will be spending their winter there. 

Our departure can't come soon enough as it is getting cold up here! Norma's garden had deteriorated to the point that even the deer are turning their noses up at it.

The desktop computer is still struggling along. It is working fine, the only thing is that it is refusing to make Ghost images. It may be hardware related or it could be software related. The consensus of opinion is to replace the hard drive with one I have sitting here. I am kind of hung up in that process because I cannot get Ghost to recognize an external drive and installing that drive in the computer involves working in a tiny space that leaves me with skinned knuckles. I am putting it off. It is no problem as I have switched my day to day work over to the Windows 7 laptop, the one we will be using all winter.

We will get these annoying delays taken care of and Life will soon be Good again!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone!

Brooks and Linda Lee are coming up for dinner and driving back home tomorrow. It will be fun having them. Norma is busy baking a stuffed salmon (we don't eat meat) and we bought a pumpkin pie and whipped cream!

The failing desktop computer is on hold. I am getting help from RV, the computer expert on the Escapees forum. I am going to transfer the operating system onto a different hard drive and then convince the computer to use that drive to boot from. This is going a little beyond my expertise level but RV has done this many times and is a good teacher. He has more confidence in me than I do.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Little Story

My next door neighbor is a long haul truck driver. A couple of years ago he was hauling salmon from Vancouver Island to Seattle, WA. One time at the border crossing he had the cab of his truck searched heading South. The inspector found a two litre bottle under the seat with some liquid in it. 

"What's in the bottle?"
"Yes, urine".
"Why do you have urine?"
"That's where I pee when I cannot find any other place".
"That's what rest areas are for".
"I am getting over a bladder infection and sometimes can't wait".
"Well, you cannot import urine into the USA".
"What if it was still inside me?"
"It's not, it's in a bottle and we don't want it."
"What would you suggest I do with it?"
"I don't know but you can't bring it into the USA."
"OK, I will dump it in the ditch."
"No you won't, that's littering and it is a hazardous waste."
"Do you have a toilet in the building? I will dump it there."
"No, you are in the USA now. You have to take it back to Canada for disposal."
"Can I leave the truck here and walk back to Canada Customs?"
"Yes, but good luck getting them to allow you to bring it in."

Well, he walked back to the Canadian side and they let him dump it in the toilet and throw away the bottle just for safe measure. He walked back to the truck and the inspector waved him on with a "Have a good day". About half an hour had elapsed.

Computer Trouble Update

Well. all went well and I updated all my programs as well as windows. I then attempted to do a new Ghost image but it would not complete! It told me it had found a bunch of bad sectors and had to abort. Ouch!

I did a "chkdsk c:/r" from the command prompt and restarted the computer in hopes that would fix it. I now have to try a new Ghost image. Maybe I will try it during the hockey game tonight. Go Canucks!!!!!

OK, I couldn't wait. It did not work - still no image. I found one more trick that I am trying now. Stay tuned.

Success!!!! chkdsk/F did the trick and repaired the errors that were stopping Ghost. Does anyone else remember DOS?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Computer Troubles

My XP desktop has been giving me problems. It has been really slow to load programs and Internet pages. In typing documents I would get way ahead of the screen and I am not a fast typer. The hard drive light on the computer would be on constantly, indicating hard drive activity. I tried doing a system restore but none of my restore points would work! I had a problem that I could not figure out.

I have Ghost installed but have not made an image in some time. The last image was back in late June but I thought, what the heck. I have all my documents backed up and I backed up my financial data onto three different medias (yes, I am paranoid) and went for it.

I think it fixed the problem. It is currently doing a full virus scan, a Windows update and a Firefox update all at the same time and still is allowing me to post this Blog. I think I won. I will be kept busy updating a few programs and I will let you know how it worked.

I really should replace the computer. It is almost 10 years old. My problem is that I have Photoshop and Nikon Capture installed and neither of them will transfer to a new computer without me paying out way too much money. One day I will have to, but not today.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Winter In Cuba?

I recently learned that an old friend of ours spends several months of every winter in Havana, Cuba. She stays in a B&B in La Habana Vieja, just four blocks from the great jazz club we found.

I asked what it costs her for accommodation and she told me she has stayed with the same family for so many winters she gets a rate that we would not be able to get but that generally, places are available in the $300 – $400 per month range (and up). She can eat as many meals per day with the family as she wants and many reasonable restaurants are nearby. The beaches are a short bus ride away. Canadians can stay in Cuba for up to six months per year with no Visa or immigration concerns.

Cuba now insists that visitors have medical insurance for the length of their visit and this is evidently available at the airport for about $1 per day.

I am getting interested! Not for this year but maybe next….
havana3 (1)