Friday, March 30, 2012

It’s Official, Canada Is Penniless!


Canada’s Minister of Finance announced today that by the end of 2012, Canada will be penniless! Yes, the lowly penny will cease to be manufactured or distributed. Those of us with jars full of them in the closet will be able to use them indefinitely but we will not be able to get new ones. A penny costs 1.6 cents to manufacture and they produce 25 of them for every Canadian every year. Canada says they are loosing $11 million a year by stamping these things out and that is why they are stamping them out (?).

Pennies used to be made of real copper but in 2000 when copper prices rose, they switched to copper plated zinc and then in 2005 to copper plated steel. They are no longer worth their weight in copper! We may have the advantage here. A friend of ours gave our son several bank bags of pennies when he was born back in 1970. He told us to leave them in the sealed bags and they would buy him a car one day. Well, maybe a tire… At least these pre 2000 pennies are real copper so maybe they will buy two tires!

You can’t buy much, if anything for a penny. Not even a thought. Few of my thoughts are worth a penny with the possible exception of this one. I would price it out at $.02, which would then be subjected to the “Swedish Rounding Rule” which dictates that 1 and 2 (or 6 and 7) cents are rounded down and 3 and 4 (or 8 and 9) cents are rounded up. That would make this thought worth nothing. Maybe I should price it at $.03 in which case you would have to pay me a nickel for it!

Electronic payments (credit and debit cards) will still be to the nearest penny so this change will only affect cash purchases and who uses cash anymore? Those lucky people with a hidden supply of pennies will have to dispense them with care. If your lunch costs say, $6.72, you would never admit that you have pennies thereby forcing McDonalds to reduce the price to $6.70. However, if your lunch comes to $6.73 then we would quickly pull out our three pennies to prevent being boosted up to the next nickel. Be careful out there and keep those pennies close to your vest! Constant vigilance and a quick mathematical mind is required!

I remember when you could buy something for a penny. I remember in the late 40’s and early 50’s my mother would give me a penny or two to go to our neighborhood store. There were huge selections of items for a penny, well maybe not huge selections, but quite a few anyway. I actually remember something that was three for a penny! Whatever they were, I did not like them. Remember Jaw Breakers? They were a penny and while they didn’t actually break your jaw, they did stain your lips and tongue. There were little wax things that squirted a blast of foul tasting liquid into your mouth when you bit down on them. They were not worth the penny they cost and the memory of them still makes me cringe. Maybe they were the three for a penny things. The dilemma was always what to do with the wax mess after you bit down on it. Swallow it or spit it out?

Canada is not the first country to do this. Even Mexico stopped using the centavo years ago. The smallest coin normally used down here is the peso, worth about seven cents. You do see the odd 50 centavo coins, worth half a peso and I once found a 10 centavo coin on the ground. It is tiny, not much more than a quarter of an inch across and silver colored. Most of the Scandinavian countries did this long ago but they have always been far advanced over us anyway. They even invented the “Swedish Rounding Rule”! Australia threw out it’s one and two penny coins and New Zealand broke ground by eliminating the nickel in 2009!

So no more sayings like, “A penny for your thoughts”, “Penny wise, pound foolish” or, “Mind your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”. Canada is now penniless!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

She Is Getting Better!

Norma was actually walking today! Not far but from the bedroom out to the kitchen and living area and back. She also felt good enough to complain about my housekeeping. In any case, she could not have done this if anything was broken so I guess it was as she said, just a bad bruise (or whatever).

We will stick around a couple more days, maybe until the 1st and then hit the border. It has been a stressful few days. That will give us two or three weeks to get home. We have to have our taxes mailed by April 30 so that is our deadline. It will take me a day or two to do the taxes.

We have to get the propane leak fixed on the way home. Maybe in San Antonio and I have to buy a new desktop computer for home as well. mine crashed and burned just before we left in November. We also need two new 6 volt golf cart batteries from Sam's Club.

Things are looking better! Thanks for all the kind words and concern!


Juan, Norma and Chris - A few hours before her fall.
Downtown Saltillo. The first is a very old coffee sales store. We bought a kilo of blended coffee for $130 pesos or $10 CAN. It smelled delicious and I can hardly wait to brew a pot!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Problem Solved!

I dropped the Mazda off at the Goodyear shop at 9:00 AM. They told me (at least I think they told me, it was in rapid Spanish) that the emergency brake was dragging and it would be ready in three hours. I took a cab back to the Hotel and then walked back to the shop at noon. they had it finished and were out for a test drive. They replaced the rear brakes and turned the disks. The total bill was $990 Pesos or about $77 dollars. Shop time is $19 per hour and they charged me for one hour plus parts and the outsourcing of the the turning. Not bad! Did I mention? Shop time is $250 pesos or $19 dollars per hour!!

Now if we can just get Norma fixed. We have paid for two more nights and if it is not a lot better by then we will get an X-ray done at our own expense (they are cheap here) and find a doctor to read it (also cheap). Chris will drive over from Monterrey to help out. In the meantime keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's Going On?

I am sure you are wondering why we are still in Saltillo and not posting much. Well, something IS going on!

The last night Chris and Juan were here Norma fell on the gravel parking lot between our RV's. She could not walk after the fall so I carried her into the motorhome. She landed on the butt attached to the same hip she broke and had repaired six years ago so of course the fear was that she had re-damaged that hip. It did not hurt unless she put weight on it and she said the pain was centered more in the butt cheek and not in the hip. She wanted a couple of days to see if it improved before we headed to the hospital.

Well, it does seem to be improving although not as quickly as I would like to see so we are giving it a couple more days before we move. The way she is, it would be very tough for her to climb down into the seating area of the motorhome to travel. We will also be hitting the border the first day and when they put the RV through the x-ray machine, they make us get out and walk 50 feet away. She would have a great deal of trouble doing this.

So, we will wait here until she is more mobile or we decide she has to have it looked at. In that case we may ask Chris or Juan to drive over from Monterrey to help us with the Spanish required in the hospital. It is a one hour drive but they have kindly offered to do this.

On another front, the rear end of the Mazda has started to make a grinding noise when we are driving or towing it. I thought it was accumulated dirt in the brakes but now I think it might be bearings. There is a Goodyear shop just down the street so I will take it in there in the morning to see if they can fix it. One thing after another!

Like Marvin Gaye says, "What's Goin' On"?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Leak

The propane is still leaking. I poured soapy water over all the connections I could see and no bubbles. Chris suggested going to a local hardware store where they keep lists of tradespeople to help with projects. We did that and we found a local plumber who said he knew propane. It seems that it is not a separate trade in Mexico but is done by plumbers. The plumber and his helper showed up and basically did what I had already done. They tested the obvious connections for tightness and checked all the connections around the tank with soapy water. He tried to convince me it was probably the fill valve where sometimes a piece of foreign matter gets stuck during a fill. He cleared this by sticking a small screwdriver into it to cause a jet of propane to come out, clearing the valve. I was sure this was not the problem as I can stop the leak by turning off the shutoff valfe which is not connected to the fill valve.

Anyway, he seemed to be at the limit of his abilities so we paid him $100 pesos or about $7.75, his asking price for a house call. He actually did not ask for $100 pesos. Instead he told me to pay what I thought he was worth' Juan told me to offer him $100 pesos. Try to get that in Canada ot the US!

He suggested leaving the valve open and to call him back if the problem returned. Well, it returned but we are not going to call him. I don't think he is all that familiar with propane systems in RV's where connections are hidden.

We are going to do without propane until we get to the USA next week. The only time we need it, or at least use it, is while moving to keep the fridge working. Many people turn their fridge off while they travel as they are afraid of having propane open in case of an accident. We (and most others) have never worried about this and travel with the tank open. It will not hurt to turn the fridge off for a few hours as long as we keep the door closed. We just won't be able to boondock along the way to San Antonio, TX where we will get it fixed.

More Important Stuff:

Our friends Chris and Juan have left as Juan had something he had to attend back in Monterrey. It was great to see them! Chris keeps saying he is "almost retired" but takes the odd contract from the publishing house he works for, traveling around Mexico training teachers and presenting new school books. Juan is also "sort of" retired but is working on his Doctorate in Education. His specialty is kids leaving high school before graduation in both the USA and Mexico. Perhaps his studies and work will lead to a solution of this problem that knows no borders!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Catching Up

Our friends Chris and Juan arrived on Thursday and parked one space over from us. Tables and chairs were set up and we caught up on each other's life for the past year. They report that things are slowly getting better in Monterrey, enough that they now feel more comfortable leaving their home to travel more. Juan is tied up in completing his Doctorate and Chris has had a few contracts that have taken him on short trips around Mexico. They are looking forward to retirement when they want to do some extensive RVing in Mexico.

We have developed a propane leak near the propane tank. Norma noticed the smell and when I checked the level, I found we had lost a quarter of a tank in a little over a day. It started just after we had it filled so I think something happened then that loosened a fitting somewhere. The smell was quite strong in the bay where the tank is but I was unable to find the leak with my soapy water solution. Chris, who is fluent in Spanish, is talking to people trying to find a mechanico who will come to the park to do repairs. We have to have the tank turned on in order for the fridge to operate while we are driving so it is important to get this repaired. Chris and Juan have a small leak in their oven that they will have repaired at the same time.

Later today we all want to go down to the Centro here in Saltillo. We will wander around and find a nice place to eat. Life is good!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


We are safe and sound in Saltillo after an uneventful 250 KM drive. The directions in the Church’s guide to the Imperial Hotel and RV Park are a little confusing to say the least! This may have been partly my fault as I tried to let the GPS assist me as well as Norma reading the directions. I probably should have just turned the GPS off. We ended up driving past the turnoff while looking for their landmarks. As soon as we did this the lady in the GPS started complaining and telling me to make a u-turn. I did this (divided highway) and the first exit was the street the hotel was on. From then it was simple.

We checked in and paid $350 pesos per day for five days. There is no weekly rate and the RV rate posted on the wall actually reads $460 pesos per day! I guess that is just there to keep undesirables out. We can always add a couple of days later.

Our friends will arrive tomorrow. There is one other motorhome in the park. It is a couple from Minnesota who read this Blog! They are just on their way down to the Yucatan.

Map picture

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Las Palmas Hotel, Matehuala

It was a short drive today from San Louis Potosi to Matehuala. We are meeting our friends Chris and Juan in Saltillo but they are delayed by having to make a quick trip up to the USA. This gives us a little extra time.

Matehuala is just a few kilometers north of the Tropic of Cancer. This is a significant marker for me because it tells me that I am really on my way home. I love the Tropics and I think my body and personality are suited for life in the Tropics. I may have been born at the wrong latitude!

We really like the Las Palmas! It is right on the Old Highway 57 that Matehuala is built on. The sign is huge and can be seen from far away. It is a very old sign, reminiscent of the old Route 66 signs.  Out back of the Hotel is the RV park which is really just a gravel parking lot with hookups. The water is good, the pressure is good, the electric is good and there are plenty of sewer connections. There are also spotless showers with tons of hot water. Everything works. Only seasoned Mexico travelers will appreciate this.

The hotel has a great restaurant. It is not cheap by Mexican standards but it is by Canadian standards. We went tonight and our meals were great. I had shrimp enchiladas and Norma had ham steak. With a glass of house wine each, the bill was $345 pesos or $27. The waiters are very good, they are dressed in tuxedos, the tables have white tablecloths and the silverware is actually silver (plated anyway). I once said something nice about the restaurant on and got the immediate response that it was too expensive for Mexico.  In my opinion, it is not. It is good value for the money.

One funny thing though. We are getting close to the border so they have English menus for English speaking customers and most of the waiters know at least a little English. I surprised them by ordering off the English menu in Spanish! The waiter thought that was pretty good!

Map picture

Blogger Question

Blogger (Google) seems to have done some changes recently. One, they have assigned a .mx suffex to my address, I guess because they have detected I am posting from Mexico. I hope this will change when I cross the border.

Second and more important, the quick edit "pencil" icon has disappeared from below my posts. This means I have to go through extra steps to edit a post. I Googled this problem and it is fairly common (mostly in Australia) with no simple fixes being offered. Have any other Blogger users had this problem?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Arco Norte to San Louis Potosi

Today was a much better driving day! The Arco Norte is a great road, only showing wear in a few little places. It has a 110 KPH speed limit and I kept it at a pretty steady 95, good for putting the miles, oops, kilometres, behind us.

We stopped at a roadside stand near San Miguel de Allende for a cup of fresh strawberries and real cream each and also to purchase a years supply of strawberry pancake syrup and jam.

From there it was a clear shot to San Lois Potosi where we are parked in a huge Pemex truck stop. There is a Church's Chicken and a Papa John.s Pizza attached so that was where we ate. You can tell we are getting close to the border!

We are about 500 KM from Saltillo where we will stay in an RV park for a couple of nights and where we shall meet our friends from Monterrey. We really enjoy the short times we get to visit with Chris and Juan. We will have fun trading stories!

The check engine light is still on but if you read the comments from yesterday you will see it is a common problem for the V-10 and not one which many people worry too much about.


Map picture

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pemex to Arco Norte

We are not really sure where last night's Pemex was. Somewhere just west of Minatitlan on Mex 150D. We got up at 8:00, filled up the gas and headed out, thinking we would find a restaurant for breakfast. Such was not the case and we went most of the long day just sharing a fruit salad we bought at a roadside stand. The road was really bad! This is the stretch that destroyed the dolly fender on the way down in January. However, I think the road in the direction we took today is in slightly better shape. The left lane had been resurfaced for part of the distance and I drove on it until each time I noticed a vehicle coming up behind me when I moved over to let him pass. The canned goods are tumbled around in the cupboard and the bedroom closet is a little messed but not too bad considering the jarring we took. Norma says to tell you that the whole state of Veracruz is just one pothole after another!

Once past Cordoba we got into the steep climb and switchbacks. This is my least favorite stretch of road in Mexico. The V-10 was really working and somewhere along the way the "Check Engine" light came on and was still on when we parked tonight. I cannot feel anything wrong in the way it drives and it starts and stops fine. If it is still on in the morning I will treat it to a tank of premium gas and see what happens. Oh yes, tolls today were $95 and two fillups of gas was about $160, thanks to the cheap gas in Mexico. My normal budget control rule is to never gas up more than once a day but today we needed to put some miles on.

We are arranging to meet up with our Mexican friends Chris and Juan somewhere north of here and if the light is still on then I will have one of them come to a ford dealer with me to translate and I will try to get the problem resolved in Mexico where it will cost pesos instead of dollars.

My other problem is that my pair of four year old six volt golf cart batteries that power the RV is packing it in. They used to be able to carry the inverter and the added on bar fridge for at least a couple of hours if we stopped for lunch or whatever. Now after only a few minutes the voltage is down below 12 volts and the inverter alarms and cuts out. We will work with these batteries until we get to a Sam's Club in the USA and can replace them there. I doubt if these ones will be worth saving for the workshop at home. I think they are shot.

Anyway, enough mental wandering! We are on the Arco Norte (Mexico City bypass) in a Pemex (actually the only Pemex on the 140 KM highway). We are at about 8000 feet. I remembered that when the generator faltered trying to carry two fridges, two computers, various phone and battery chargers and the microwave all at the same time. It is set up for sea level and will not handle the big loads way up here at 8000 feet! One thing at a time and it is fine. On the Arco Norte, Life is Good!

Map picture

You Say Pollo…

We walked over to the little restaurant in the Pemex last night for dinner. We were the only customers and, as is usual in Mexico, the place looked and smelled spotless. Every one of the six or seven tables had a fresh tablecloth on it and the tile floor gleamed.

The well dressed young waiter brought us a menu. There was little on it for a non meat eater like me but I quickly spotted a tuna salad and vegetable soup. There were actually several soups offered but right at the top of the list was plain “sopa vegetal”, followed by the next soup on the list, “sopa vegetal con pollo”. I read the first to him and in meticulous handwriting he wrote  down  “sopa vegetal con pollo”.  I said “no pollo” and  he went into a long spiel in Spanish that I could not follow.  I pointed to the entry on the menu and again said “no pollo”  and he again went into his spiel.  I told him to forget the soup and to just bring me the tuna salad, “Ensalada de Atun”.

At this point Norma got mad at me for giving up and took over the ordering of my soup. I gave up listening because there was an obvious failure to communicate but soon they both nodded and she said he understood. Well, maybe not so much because I got my nice tuna salad accompanied by a large bowl of chicken soup.

Pronunciation is very important in Spanish and I was pronouncing pollo as “polo” (like in the horseback game), where the actual pronunciation is “poyo”. I guess this was the problem, he had no idea what I was talking about and was used to everyone ordering the chicken variety of soup. Earlier, Norma walked into the same restaurant and asked to see the menu. The woman who was there at the time told her there was no menu even though there was a pile if them on the counter. Norma picked one up and the woman laughed and told her the correct pronunciation, which sounded pretty close to our pronunciation but obviously not close enough.

Anyway, all ended well, I got my tuna salad and Norma ate the soup. I suspect he was telling us they had no plain vegetable soup and was recommending the chicken variety. Oh well, another night in Mexico. The Pemex was very quiet all night. Life here is a little confusing at times but Good!

Photos: You may have noticed a lack of Photos on the Blog recently. Now both computers are refusing to recognize the photo card. I am working on the problem and have been advised to remove the batteries for a time to let everything reset.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Howling Good Time

The Howler Monkeys were really having a great time at Palenque! They start up at dusk and have great conversations across the treetops. Individually they sound like a hoarse dog bark but add them all together and it is something between a lion’s roar and the sound of heavy traffic. Very hard to describe, you have to hear it. Now there is an idea! All of you come to the Mayabell in Palenque and listen to the monkeys!

We got away fairly early this morning. We were supposed to leave yesterday but we got tangled up with a great couple of real estate salesmen from Chico, CA and some beer and tequila and etc., etc.. We did not feel like driving the next morning!

The road to Villahermosa was not very good. Lots of construction, dirt and gravel.  Once again we drove straight down the highway through Villahermosa. We have been told this is illegal for dual wheel vehicles. We are supposed to use the periferico which is in really bad shape and would take at least an hour instead of the fifteen minutes on the highway.
About an hour out of Villahermosa, traffic ground to a halt, moving slowly in a single lane. We soon saw the problem. A tractor pulling two huge trailers of Tecate beer had overturned in the median! Thousands of cases of bottled beer had dumped and were being picked up and stacked while two wreckers were trying to pull the truck and trailers out of the ditch. They stopped traffic for this and we were at the front of the line to watch the show.
This set us back a good hour so we did not make it as far as we had hoped. This is the stretch where our Alaskan friends were hijacked a couple of weeks ago but this being yet another holiday in Mexico, the road is very busy, not a good time for pistol packing banditos.

We are stopped in a busy Pemex station that is open all night. It is well lit and well used so we will be safe here. It is 99F so the generator is running and the A/C is trying to cool us down. There is a restaurant here that we will try soon. We will tip the guard when he shows up. Life is good!

Map picture

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Palenque, And It Is HOT!

We just pulled into Palenque's Mayabell PV park and it is HOT! 104F in the shade! The power is good enough to run the A/C on low so that is what it is doing. I am not sure if we will go to the ruins. It is very uncomfortable walking and climbing in this heat and we have seen them twice before.

The drive here was fine. Two hundred and some kilometers of secondary road, much of it under construction. We picked up a little mud when they over-watered one section of dirt. We will just hang around in the motorhome until the music starts in the palapa restaurant that is on the grounds. They have good music every night and the food is always great. After that we will listen to the Howler Monkeys in the trees around the park.

Map picture

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chetumal To Escarcega

We finally got away from Chetumal! It has been just over a month and it was really nice there. The weather was pretty much perfect although it did rain a couple of times. The rain, when it came, only lasted for a few minutes to an hour and then the sun came back out.

We took MX 186 that cuts across the Yucatan almost directly to Palenque. It is a little too far for a day so we stopped overnight half way.

On the way here though a couple of things happened. We went through an Aduana (Customs) checkpoint. A nice guy in uniform but very efficient. He pointed at the motorhome’s VIN tag and asked for the importation papers. This has never happened to us before. We showed him the papers for both the MH and the Mazda and he waved us through.

A few miles up the road we came to an army checkpoint. They had a pickup in front of us stopped and were really going through it. The had the seats tipped up and were searching under and behind them. It was finally our turn and we expected the same treatment. Instead a nice looking young Mayan Marine came to the window and asked if we spoke Spanish. As we do in all these cases, we said no. We have found if we tell them we know a little then they launch into rapid Spanish that we cannot follow and that makes them think we are being evasive, so we always say “no”.

He looked at our passports and with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Good, then we can speak Mayan”! He then spoke a sentence in Mayan, we all laughed and he waved us on. This has been our experience in every case with the Mexican Army. They are alert for telltale signs but friendly to us old Canadians!

We had checked the Churches book for a place to stay near Escarcega and drove to the “Restaurante Bar Familiar Maya Campestre” at KM 52 east of Escarcega. The parking is free, all they ask is that you buy a meal at the restaurant. It was 97F when we parked. We went for a late lunch / early dinner and then retreated into the motorhome with the generator and air conditioning running. There are many chickens, roosters, peacocks and one shy dog running around so I suspect we will be up early!

Well, the sound of the Karaoke machine drew us back to the restaurant. The small place was full of locals and we had a blast. We drank three litres of beer, ate a large plate of french fries, danced with Mayans and watched a floor show of flaming baton throwing! It was a lot of fun, all for $151 pesos or about $12 dollars!  It is now 10:00 PM,  it is 81F and it is pitch black outside.  Every star in the sky is putting on a show. Life is Good!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Price of Gas

The price of gas just went up in Mexico overnight. It is now $10 pesos per liter which works out to $.785 Canadian. This is about half price to what Canadians are paying right now. For us it is "Almost free" but for Mexicans it has become very expensive. Fellow Blogger Kevin has worked this out to an equivalent of $3.00 US per gallon for those of you who think gallons.

$10 pesos per liter is about 40% higher than it was when we first started coming down to Mexico but like Kevin says, our Canadian dollar is better against the peso now than it was then. Life is still good for Canadians in Mexico but I should have filled up the tank in the motorhome and car before it happened.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Recent Reflections

A comment from Dee on my last post spurred me to write this. I have actually been searching for the right words for a couple of days so thanks for the inspiration Dee.
Croft -- I want you to know that dear husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed your blogs. Your blog and TiogaGeorge's blog are two of our favorites. If you have the time, please continue your blog. We have become tired of big Mexico resorts and Mexico cruises and are looking at other ways to see Mexico, and we do RV but have never done so in Mexico. But I have to ask this question. Is it just a coincidence that all this trouble is breaking loose now so close in time (i.e., your friends' carjacking and the shootouts at the border Wed. and Thurs. of this week) when so many people are traveling north from their winter hiatus? 
Take care, so that we may hear from you again.
Dee from South Carolina 
Dee, The troubles on the border are not connected to RVers at all. It is drug cartel members fighting over turf and this has been going on for years. Every once in a while the press takes notice of it and makes a big deal out of it. And it is a big deal, don't get me wrong, but it is not a deal that affects us. We have our own rules about the border. We do not spend the night within a hundred kilometers of the border, we stay on the toll roads and we always cross the border (in both directions) as early in the morning as possible. The bad guys are usually creatures of the night so never being within a hundred kilometers of the border after noon has kept us safe. 

Our RV'ing friend, Belgique (who just may possibly be retired CIA) explained his rule of "Situational Awareness" which would serve to keep all of us safer no matter where we are. He tells us to always be aware of our situation and surroundings. Never become so complacent that you do not recognize signs of possible or pending danger. If you are someplace and something does not feel right, leave. Get yourself out of that place or situation. This could be a lonely street, a restaurant or a lonely highway. Always be aware and diligent. Like I say, this is not just for Mexico, it works in New York or New Delhi just as well. 

For every story like this recent hijacking, there are thousands of happy stories that do not make it to the RV Forums and Blog pages. Anyone looking at these forums with no personal experiences of traveling in Mexico themselves would get the impression that this sort if thing happens to everyone. The doom and gloom forum hangers-on who have never been more than a few hundred miles from their own safe little houses all join in to say they would never come to Mexico when in actuality they would never go anywhere except perhaps fenced, guarded resorts or cruise terminals full of carbon copies of themselves. 

This is why we RV, and why we extend our boundaries a little further than many would be comfortable with. I remember the first time we crossed the Mexico border with the motorhome. The language and culture barriers made even the simplest things difficult. Buying gas, groceries, finding and paying for an RV park, getting a haircut... everything. Soon these things became just as easy as they were at home and we started looking deeper into the eyes and souls of the Mexican people and discovered what brought us here in the first place. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Yes it is a little different than what we are used to but that is why we are here. 

Cheryl and Frank followed all the safe travel rules and still got in trouble. They traveled in the daytime, stayed on the well traveled toll roads and did not flaunt their wealth. This sort of thing is not supposed to happen to them. But it did. Could it happen again? Sure, and it probably will. But it could happen to anyone, anywhere in the world. You could stay home and never leave your house but then the home invaders could come or a drunk could drive through your bedroom wall. Shit happens everywhere and it cannot be completely avoided. We just go on with our lives and reduce the danger as much as we reasonably can while still testing our boundaries and exploring our world in the little time we have to do it.

The fact remains that in recent years there have been more RVers murdered in Canada (2) and in the USA (2) than in Mexico (0). These are the facts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Update On Shooting

I just got an update from Cheryl. They are safe and sound in Webers RV Park in San Miguel de Allende. They say they they were surrounded by a crowd before they could even back into their space by people who had read the story on RV,net or on my Blog. 

Yes, they reported the incident to the police. Yes, they did memorize the plate number and passed it on to the police. Yes, there is a big bullet hole in the windshield, a dent on the hood where the bullet hit first and a dent in the fender and bumper where they ran into the VW when it cut them off. They are going to stay in SMA for a few days until they stop shaking and they are going to the USA Embassy there to make a report.

They say to thank everyone for their concern. 

Here is a photo of the bullet hole in the windshield and the dent in the hood where it hit first! Too close for comfort!

Bread and Roses

This was the song that came out of the Textile Workers Strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This was one of the first major strikes by a workforce composed of women. The song is traditionally associated with International Women's Day (March 8) when a gift of Bread and Roses is offered to socially active women whom we respect and admire.
As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

For those of you interested in this historic strike, check here.

Bad News!

This is a story I hate to relate! We stayed beside this couple here in Chetumal for two nights. We had long conversations and shared a dinner out. They are from Alaska and she is a council member of her village near Fairbanks. I have absolutely no doubts about their story.  Here is the email I got from Cheryl yesterday:

Hola dear friends,
Yesterday, about one hour after leaving campground, Rancho Hermanos Graham at Aqua Dulce, we were robbed on the highway. Driving along, a white VW suddenly passed us on the left and pulled immediately in front of us. We just thought they were crazy drivers. Frank tried to avoid a collision which looked imminent. However, they pulled in front again and while doing so, a gunman fired a shot aimed at Frank. It barely missed him, went through the windshield and hit the ceiling of the inside of the truck in the back. In fact, today, we got the bullet which looks like a 45. They forced us to the side, two gunmen got in and forced us into back seat with our dog Missy. We drove frantically up and down highways unknown to us. Then they pulled over, took me out of the truck and put me in their car with two banditos, while two banditos stayed with Frank in our truck. We then separated and drove up-down and who knows where for approx one hour. They had taken our bank cards and were taking me to bank machines, but, you won't believe this, I couldn't get money. The reason, which I figured out the next day was because I was using wrong password for wrong card. Eventually, they got $10,000 pesos and drove back to where Frank was. They stole both our computers, our two cell phones, one mp3 player, etc. We are at an internet cafe in Cholula right now. We stayed in a hotel last night and also tonight. It was terrifying, and hope you guys can notify all website-facebook sites that need to know! Please. We have no internet addresses. Yours was in my purse. We are heading north to the USA. 
We would appreciate it if you would let people know. We were on a Cuota, by the way. We wonder if perhaps we were set up. There were some people staying in a palapa at the campground mentioned above. We are terrified.

Great to meet you and sorry to contact you with sad news.
Cheryl and Frankie

This is the same road Norma and I have to take when we leave the Yucatan. It can be fairly desolate in places. Our plan is to get in with a group of trucks and stick with them the whole way through. It is very unlikely that lightening will strike twice in the same place and this is normally known as a safe highway. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Minimalist Adventurers

A family from France recently passed by, spending two nights in our RV park. They are on a one year tour of the Americas on bicycles! They have three young children (two girls and a boy) aged about 5, 7 & 8 and are home schooling the older ones as they go. They have two hi-tech European bikes, both equipped with reclining seats at the front for the older children. These seats have pedals which can be engaged or disengaged if and when the children feel like helping pedal. When disengaged, they act as footrests. The youngest child rides in a trailer behind dad. They have minimal camping gear consisting mainly of a lightweight tent which is actually two tents fastened together forming a small covered common area between the two. Cooking is done on a single burner propane stove. Mom’s trailer carries the tent, sleeping bags and stove. They have no cooler and groceries are bought as they eat them.

I asked them how drivers treat them and he told me they take up a whole lane riding side by side and drivers have generally been very good, waiting to pass. They had only had one very close call when a car passed them at high speed with only centimeters to spare.

They had already done South and Central America and were on their way to the USA and Canada, averaging 50 kilometers per day. RV parks and campgrounds with showers are a once in a while treat because of their scarcity so they usually ask to spend the night in someone’s yard along the way. When they were parked beside us, they must have had ten showers each!

I neglected to ask how they deal with parts like tires along the way. That must be a challenge.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our Little RV Park On Chetumal Bay

We are parked between the palms near the bottom of the photo. You can see the pool and the restaurant.

View Larger Map

Monday, March 5, 2012

Still Here

Living a very quiet life here. We have pretty much been by ourselves lately except for Frank and Cheryl, a couple from Alaska who were here for a couple of nights. We enjoyed a happy hour with them followed by dinner at the park's restaurant. It was nice to be able to speak English for a while! They were kindred spirits politically as well and that is always a treat!

The water pump is still working so I guess I did it right. I got to thinking (always dangerous) that maybe the significant amount of bleach I add to the tank every time I fill it might have a detrimental effect on the rubber parts of the pump.

Our StarChoice signal is weakening again I went out and looked up. There is a palm tree branch way up that might be in the way. It is too high to "fix' and I cannot move the dish slightly forward to avoid it as it is already near the seawall. It will take a complete move of the dish to the front and side of the motorhome to find clear sky and that would put the dish in the wind and also a little close to the next site, not that they are lining up to move in there. That may become our project for today.

We went grocery shopping yesterday in a tropical rainstorm. It was so loud hitting the roof of the Soriana store that you could not talk inside! It had quit by the time we left the store and the sun was out again.

Starchoice move completed and getting a good signal. Now if I can just keep from running into it!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

That Was Easy!

I got tired of listening to the water pump struggle to pressurize the system so I threw caution to the wind and replaced the pump. Four screws to hold it down, two screw on water fittings, two wire splices and it was done. I did not have a new strainer so I reused the old one. It was spotless anyway. It now pressurizes instantly and shuts off as soon as the tap is closed. it is also much quieter.

I am always just a little cautious in Mexico when I have to tear something apart. Back home I always have the fallback position of taking it in to an RV shop if I screw up but in Mexico that is not an option. If something goes wrong down here you fix it yourself or hope a smart neighbor moves in.

We now have good as new water flow, no leaks, Norma is happy and Life Is Good!

Windy and Clear

We hunkered down in the wind yesterday and last night. There is not a cloud in the sky but there is a steady 30 KPH wind from the South. It is still warm, in the mid 80's so we will venture out to the store today as we are getting low on supplies. It does not look like the wind will be letting up so I may put the rear stabilizers down to stop the bedroom from rocking like it did all last night.

Water Pump Problems

We are having water pump problems in the RV's fresh water system. It is taking it a long time to re-pressurize the system after we turn a tap on/off. It has always been able to keep up but now the pump keeps loudly running for several seconds (5 - 10) after the tap is shut off and is slow to turn on when a tap is opened. I suspect the pressure switch in the pump is going (or maybe the diaphragm, I am no expert) .  I have a complete spare pump so it is just a matter of working in a very small space in one of the outside bins to replace it. It is (naturally) on the side that is exposed to the wind. We filled the water tank once when the park's well (or underground storage tank, I am not sure) was almost empty and sucking up a bit of mud so that might have something to do with it. Maybe later today or maybe manana.