Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Doctor's Visit

We both went to the doctor about three weeks ago, Norma for her hip that we feared she damaged in a fall in Mexico and me for my semi-annual blood tests. We got lab orders for the respective work and waited to hear. We got no call back on Norma's hip but I got a call to come in to "discuss" my lab results. I hate these calls! They get you on the edge of your seat until your appointment thinking you have some serious problem he has to tell you about in his little room where you cannot run out and kill yourself. Or something. Today I went to see him.

Aside from slightly elevated blood sugar, my results were perfect! The outrageously high PSA test results (11) I got last year have not been repeated and my PSA has since remained in the low "normal" range (1.5). My kidneys, which failed and were repaired with massive steroid doses about 15 years ago are still functioning perfectly. I am a fine specimen! Considering.

Norma's X-rays came back showing the previous (2007) break healed and "without convincing evidence of complication". In other words, whatever happened when she fell in Mexico, even though it kept her in pain and off her feet for almost two weeks, did not show up on the X-ray. It was probably a bruise.

We have his clearance to head out for more adventures whenever we want! Total cost for all these visits, tests, lab work, X-ray readings, etc? $30 (for the PSA test which is not covered by Canadian medical coverage). The rest was free!

My New Webcam

Until yesterday, the only webcam I had was on my little Asus Netbook. I bought this little computer to carry around Mexican towns in search of WIFI and seldom used it for much else as I carry my full size laptop in the motorhome. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a $10 webcam from eBay. I hooked the little thing up to my new Acer desktop and here is my test shot!

Words To Avoid

Here is a list of words to avoid using in your Blogs, Facebook entries or emails. The USA Homeland Security computers that are constantly monitoring cyberspace are programmed to flag these words and to pull these emails or entries out for closer examination. I myself have noticed that many of my Blog entries have been read by someone near Langley, Virginia where I doubt if I have many regular readers.

Here is the list:

Monday, May 28, 2012

We Danced, We Drank..

But mainly we talked! The party was a huge success. The weather cooperated and the outside fireplace was burning to keep the chill off when the sun went down. Many old friends showed up, mostly old telephone workers we worked with over our years here in Campbell River. Even Wes Stevens, my boss when I was here for a stint in 1968 - 70 showed up. He lives just down the road from us but we rarely see each other. He is the one, if you remember, who feeds the eagles off his patio on the ocean and was featured on the Blog last year (or maybe the year before).

Brooks and Linda drove up, bringing Linda's mom, Janice and Jayde, our oldest granddaughter. It was a ton of fun and after cleaning up on Sunday we had the house back to ourselves and had a very relaxing day!

Our friend John, who can work wonders with a microwave radio system, has a little trouble with cameras. It was him who took these shots. In fact, he took 287 shots. These are some of the very few which were kind of in focus..

Croft, Brooks, Jayde and Janice

 Croft, Justin, Janice, Norma, Jason and Ricki. Is Jason eyeing my Single Malt?

Croft dancing with Norma, Ricki, Linda and Jayde. Lucky me!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Beautiful Weekend!

Finally some great weather and just in time! Every year around this time we have friends and neighbors over for a little get together. We are away for six months every year and it would be easy to loose track of people so we combine my birthday (April 29) with a coming home party. We have managed to have it out on the patios every year but this time it was a little doubtful. It rained and even hailed most days leading up to the weekend but this morning the sun came out and it was very warm. The forecast is for more of the same for tomorrow at least so our record is unbroken!

Brooks and Linda are coming up and bringing our oldest granddaughter, Jayde, with them. We have not seen Jayde in way too long. She is 16 and very busy with sports, boyfriends and all the other things that keep young people busy. She is taking the weekend off from all these activities (and Avery - who we have yet to meet) to visit us and it will be great to see her!

Well, I have to cut some wood for the outdoor fireplace so I better get back to it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Missing Eagles

It seems the pair of nesting eagles who have lived in our back yard for several years are not there this summer! I have been watching their tree and there has been no sign of them. I don't know if something has happened to them or if they have simply moved on. I hope neither of these is the case and I will keep watching for them. I hope they show up.

Here they are last year:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cost At Home VS Costs While Traveling

Bill in Nebraska asked how our costs while traveling compare with our costs while at home. I picked an arbitrary 170 day period in 2011 and here are the results. It is kind of a hard comparison to make. We did not use the motorhome at all last summer except as an extra bedroom for guests. I flew out to Ontario by myself to visit my sister in June and show those expenses.

Our entertainment expenses at home are always centered around dinner parties so these costs are hidden in “Groceries”. We entertain quite a bit but very seldom “go out”. Canada has almost zero tolerance drinking driving laws and we are a large cab fare from town. I am limited to one small glass of wine if I have to drive. As a result, our dining out in Canada is mainly breakfasts out.

“I” do not buy much liquor in Canada because it is so expensive. Norma buys more than me but that does not make it into Quicken. The “extras” that Canada Customs lets me bring back from the USA last me through the summer.

At home expenses of course include all the house expenses like repairs, maintenance and taxes. I did not include these because wear and tear happen all year but just get worked on and paid for in the summer.

I did not include ferry costs in any of the columns. It costs us $250 each way on and off the Island with the motorhome and $60 if we just take the car. We hardly ever leave the Island except for our winter trips.

The biggest differences are gas and RV parks (which are much cheaper if rented for the whole season). If we did like most of our friends do and stay in one place all winter, our winter expenses would be greatly reduced!

ITEM 2010/11 USA 2011/12 Mexico 170 Days at Home (2011) COMMENTS (at home only)
Fuel (Car) 494 212 559  
Fuel (Motorhome) 4302 4503 47 Added gas to run generator while parked at home
Propane 113 126 0  
Dining 3770 1843 464 Mostly breakfast out while at home, dinner out on the road.
Entertainment 1077 95 189 Fishing trip with my son.
Groceries (Inc. Liquor) 3606 3896 2463 We used up liquor brought back to Canada We always have leftover liquor from trip.
Groceries bought by Norma (estimate)     800 She sneaks groceries in that do not get recorded in Quicken.
Admissions & Tours 155 26 0  
RV Parks 3080 3077 0 Motorhome stayed parked all summer.
Hotels 422 0 155 Trip to Kitchener to visit my sister
Taxis, buses, Limo Service 68 22 100 Trip to Kitchener to visit my sister
Tolls 5 845 0  
Travel (Other) 808 152 512 Trip to Kitchener to visit my sister
Cell Phone 331 180 184 Pay As You Go 7-11 phone
Heat and Light     1321 Included with RV park costs when traveling
TOTALS $18,231 $14,977 $6,794 $107.25/day in USA, $88.10 in Mexico, $39.97 at home

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Robin Gibb Dies Today At 62

Thanks for the memories Robin. RIP.

What Did It Cost?

What did last winter in Mexico cost compared to the previous year when we stayed in the USA? Good question!
ITEM 2010/11 USA 2011/12 Mexico COMMENTS
Fuel (Car) 494 212 We drove the motorhome more and the car less in MX
Fuel (Motorhome) 4302 4503 Cheaper gas in MX but we drove much further in MX
Propane 113 126
Dining 3770 1843 Gulf Coast restaurants! We probably dined out almost as much in MX but restaurants are cheaper there.
Entertainment 1077 95 New Orleans, Beale St, Key West, Cruise Ship, etc.
Groceries (inc. Liquor) 3606 3896 Everything we buy in a grocery store. Soap, replacement drinking glasses, books, etc.
Admissions & Tours 155 26
RV Parks 3080 3077 RV Parks are cheaper in MX but we boondocked much more in USA (Walmarts, etc.). Free parking for one month at friends in FL.
Hotels 422 0 Key West hotel for four nights (that took some shopping!)
Taxis, buses 68 22
Tolls 5 845 Mexican toll roads
Travel (Other) 808 152 Cruise to the Bahamas
Cell Phone 331 180 We use Skype more in Mexico
$18,231 $14,977 $107.25/day in USA and $88.10 in Mexico

Wow! That is a little shocking! We visited a lot of famous cities in the USA and tried out some expensive, famous restaurants. The side trip to the Bahamas was fun but a little costly. The USA required a few expensive RV parks ($60/night in both New Orleans and Savannah) while Mexico RV parks average $20/night. Gas is much cheaper in Mexico but we put a lot more miles on down there.

If the weather was a little warmer on the USA side of the border we would probably spend more time there but I just do not like the cold and it got down to freezing on too many nights and some days it was actually colder that it was back home! If we did stay NOB we would have to find a bit of a cheaper way to do it but how can you drive all the way to Savannah, GA and NOT go to Paula Dean’s (or try the beignets in New Orleans)

We also went a little nuts on entertainment in the USA year. I am a blues music fan and had to visit all the clubs in Clarksdale and Memphis. Normally our “entertainment” is going out for dinner and appears as a “dining” expense. New Orleans’ Bourbon Street is also something everyone has to experience once in a lifetime!

The Canadian dollar was worth slightly more in the Mexico year so that probably cut expenses by about 4% that year.

Not included in the above is maintenance and repairs on the vehicles which is about $1000 in both years and medical insurance which was almost $1500 each year.

NOTE: I made a huge addition error the first time I posted this so the difference is now not quite so shocking! Thanks for pointing it out, Kevin! One of the things that saved us a lot of money in the USA year was being able to park for a whole month at our friend’s place in Florida where RV parks are extremely expensive.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Visit from Les

Our friend Les AKA "Mexico Kid" lives down the road in Nanaimo.  He emailed a few days ago to ask if I would give him a hand doing a few repairs in his motorhome and installing new batteries. I have all the tools and like working on this stuff so we made a date and he drove up yesterday. We had a nice visit and got all the jobs done.

While Les and I were working on the motorhome, Norma busied herself detailing the old Honda. Over the winter it developed a leak in the sun roof and there was a half inch of water on the floor when we got home in April. Mold had set in and it was a real mess! We dried it out and yesterday Norma attacked the mold with an assortment of weapons from a bleach solution to the vacuum cleaner. She did a great job and actually got it all out. When Les and I finished our work, I treated the old Honda to a new battery and it seems to be running pretty good for it's age. It is a 1989 with almost 300,000 KM on it. The age makes it almost a "classic" These old things just refuse to die! It is in desperate need of a paint job which it just might get in Mexico next winter.

Before Les left for home he treated us to a delicious fish and chips meal down on the dock. It was a great day!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The X-Ray

Norma got her X-Ray last Tuesday and was told the results would be sent to her doctor within four days. Today is one week and we had heard nothing. We called the doctor's office and were told the doctor had seen the x-rays and the fact that he had not called meant there was no problem. This is strange because she could put no weight at all on that hip and leg for two weeks and it was very tender for another two weeks. She is now walking pretty much normally but is still not convinced there is nothing wrong. We will give it a couple of weeks to see which direction the healing goes.

There was no bruising visible at any time so I don't know how it could be anything BUT a re-injury to the hip. Maybe there was and it healed itself in the six weeks since she fell. She always has healed quickly. Time will tell!

Mother’s Day

We drove down to Brooks and LindaLee's in Shawnigan lake on Sunday morning for Mother's Day. They had planned to come up for a visit but got the go-ahead for a job that they had to prepare for. It is a $25K fence that requires pre-stained wood. They hate doing these because it is so messy and time consuming but they are about the only fencing company on the lower Island that will do it. Right now things are slow because customers are waiting for the latest sales tax changes in BC to complete so right now, a job is a job and you don’t turn them down because you have to get dirty.

It is always a nice drive down Island and they had made reservations at a very nice restaurant near their house. It was a fairly early night as they had to get up early to start spraying so we were on the road home before ten. It was a nice break, a good visit and a great meal! Thanks guys!


Map picture

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Because It Is The right Thing To Do

FINALLY! President Obama came out in favor of Equal Marriage! He has spent years "evolving" his position and avoiding having to come down one way or the other on the issue but today he did the right thing. He is now firmly on the correct side of history.

This is the first time in history that an American President has taken a stand on this issue. In that sense today is equivalent to the day the first black children were allowed into "white" schools.

It is a great day for civil Rights in the USA! If I was an American I would be very proud of my President. Now get out there and get him re-elected!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

X-Ray Day

Norma finally got her hip x-ray'd. She fell on March 22 in Mexico. It did not hurt all that much as long as she kept her weight off it and she wanted to get home to have her own specialist look at it so she just took it very easy and we came home. Since we got home it has been slowly but steadily improving but still needs looking at. We called our GP late last week and got an appointment for this morning. The GP agreed she needed an x-ray and gave her the paperwork. We walked across the street to the hospital and checked in to the imaging department. We took a seat and 45 minutes later they took her in for her x-ray. The results will be analysed and sent over to her doctor. We will hear back within a week.

She also asked him how she could gain weight. It is really hard to find fattening food these days! Everything is marked "Low Cal", Reduced Fat" or some equivalent claim that it will make you skinny. If you are already too skinny, it is tough. He told her to simply eat more pasta and high protein food. I have been telling her this for years but she has always eaten portions about 1/4 - 1/2 the size of mine and she skips far too many meals altogether. She has to listen to all the diet advice out there and do the opposite! At least she recognizes the problem now.

Going to Mexico does not help in this endeavor. Even I loose weight down there as a result of the better quality food available and the smaller portions in restaurants. The warm (hot) climate encourages a lower food intake as well and it was warm this year. Right now my pants are falling down and I am breaking in a new hole in my belt. Don't worry I will be back up to my "fighting weight" before long.

* This is MY x-ray, not hers.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Updating Garmin

The Garmin 1350 I bought two years ago from Costco came with lifetime map updates. About twice a year Garmin releases their updated maps and I have to hook the GPS to the computer and update it. That is what I am doing today as I watch the NASCAR race from Talladega. A nice relaxing day.

Bathroom Project

Yesterday I changed out the main bathroom exhaust fan. It quit working sometime over the winter and that is no surprise because it is at least 25 years old. I took the old one out and took it down to Home Depot to try to find a replacement. I was surprised to see these things come in a huge range of prices all the way from $20 to $300! The ones at the top end have a heater, a light and a humidity sensor that turns them on and off automatically. I opted for the $20 model but don't tell Norma. Her theory is, the more you pay, the better it is, but this one does everything I want (moves air outside) and I do not need one that wipes my butt for me.

The new ones are all either a little bigger or a little smaller than the old one. Going bigger would involve cutting a larger hole in the ceiling and probably having to do some work up in the attic which I wanted to avoid. I went for a unit that was a tiny bit smaller but after I installed it, discovered the plastic cover for the unit did not quite cover the hole in the ceiling. I solved the problem by modifying and reusing the cover from the old unit. It is a little yellowed with age and if we do not like it after a few days, I will take it down and spray it white.

I am giving myself the rest of the day off.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Tonight the moon will be the closest to the earth and brighter looking than at any other time in the year. If the weather is good, I will try to get a photo.

If you have a clear night, why not try one yourself? The trick is to use the "Moony 11" rule. This tells us to set the shutter at the reciprocal of the film speed and shoot at f/11. This is because the light we see from the moon is actually reflected light. Therefore if you have a digital camera, pick a fairly high ASA of maybe 500. You then set the shutter speed at 1/500 of a second and set the lens opening to f/11. Maybe try a couple of different settings as insurance but following the "Moony 11" rule will get your exposure in the ballpark. Do not rely on the camera's meter because it will be seeing a lot of dark sky and will try to average the reading to make everything come out. In other words, it will not work!

This is not my shot but it will give you an idea of what you are going for!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Motorhome Repaired!

We took the motorhome in yesterday to have three things fixed:

1) The brake lights that did not work and the associated problem of the dolly brakes not working.
2) The annoying "Check Engine" light.
3) The daylight running lights came on when the ignition was on "Accessory". This made listening to the radio when parked impossible.

Yesterday was the last day we could drive the motorhome as the insurance expired at midnight last night. We picked the rig up last night after the shop was closed and I went down this morning to pay the bill. I was pleasantly surprised.

The brake light problem turned out to be a blown fuse (although I checked the only two fuses with the word "Brake" on them and they were good...

The "Check Engine" light indicated another low fuel pressure condition which they reset. He says it is probably the result of driving up steep hills while overweight and towing the car. It just cannot suck fuel fast enough. Resetting will solve the problem until next time.

The accessory switch problem was a result of the same garage making an error when they installed the daylight running switch when we imported the motorhome. It was a simple fix for them.

The bill was $90. I expected more as some garages charge $100 just to scan the engine computer. We have always had very good, reasonably priced service from Mel Penner Automotive her in Campbell River. Thanks again guys.

The only other thing I have to have done is something with the suspension. We run overloaded all the time and reducing the weight is simply not an option. There is very little room for "stuff" after subtracting the weight of the unloaded rig from the maximum allowed weight. Adding a leaf to the springs will cost me $500 and adding air bags, $600. I do not know which route to go.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Smart Meter II

I talked once before about the new electrical "Smart Meters" that our power company is installing. These meters incorporate a cell phone and read themselves. There are privacy issues involved and there is a movement to stop the installation of these hi-tech devices.

Well, my son had these new meters installed on his house a couple of months ago. His bill has always averaged $300 per month. He runs his shop off the house power so his usage has always been higher than normal but it always averaged $300. His first bill after the new meter was installed was $600 for one month! He just assumed it was an error and called to get it fixed. Before long his second bill came in for another $600! He now owed them $1200 for two months! He called to complain and they said the reading was based on usage and was correct. He asked them to test the meter and was told they would not. He could have it tested at his own expense but the bill must be paid in the meantime or his power would be cut off. No negotiations.

He then got the bill for the meter on the vacant suite. Not only is the suite vacant but the power is not even connected at the breaker panel in the suite as the inspections have not been completed. The power company says the empty suite has used $400 worth of electricity in two months!

He called again and after explaining the situation, they reversed this charge. He then suggested that they may have a batch of faulty meters but got nowhere with them. The battle continues but he had to give them some money to avoid being disconnected. They are not interested in discussing the problem. Their attitude is, just shut up and pay!

They have not yet started replacing our meters in Campbell River and I am going to put a sign on mine telling them they do not have permission to change it. Stay tuned.