Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekend Outing - Bustamante, NL

We went to Bustamante this weekend for a friend's annual birthday party.  They own a hotel in the town and each year we gather for the weekend.   Everyone spends the night at the hotel, dinner, drinks, dancing and games until all hours of the morning.  Then on Sunday we all seem to crawl out at some hour for a group breakfast.   It was a great time had by all and I have a few pics at the bottom of the party.  

First though, I'd like to share some information about the area.   One of the things we hear quite a bit from rvers, rv forums, and friends who drive through Mexico is, "beat feet across the border and get south".   Big mistake.  A few years ago I posted on the blog about crime statistics in Mexico and it turns out that the places most rvers end up spending the winter are actually the most dangerous in the country and the northern border and the states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Chihuahua are not on the list. 

As you cross the Colombia Bridge, you never have to enter the state of Tamaulipas.   You can actually drive all the way to Saltillo by staying in the state of Nuevo Leon.   Now I'm not saying there are issues with Tamaulipas.   That's up to each person to decide, I don't live there, but I (we) travel there without any issues.

Highway 1 takes you from the Colombia Bridge all the way to the toll highway 40 to Saltillo and the 57 and all points south.   There are numerous towns on this route that welcome tourists, have many points of interest including museums, mountains, food, speciality breads, wines, and even developed tours of caverns.   This doesn't include anything south of Monterrey down where we live and all points south which is another blog post.  We've boondocked in all of these small towns and Bustamante is one with not only great history, cavern tours, but also a state park with electric (20 amp), washrooms and natural springs.

I left the party just after 1 a.m.  Too late for me.  I went to bed and woke up around 7 o'clock.  I had some coffee in our room, showered and headed out for a walk.   I walked the length and the width of the town in just under an hour.   Great walk to warrant a Sunday breakfast.  Shop owner's were the only ones to be found out and about.

The main church in Bustamante located in the town square.

Typical Mexican plaza with the kiosk.  

The town hall built in the 1830s.  The town was founded by the Spaniards who brought the tlaxcaltecas to work in the mines in the hills you see in the picture behind the church. 

Like most small towns in Mexico there is the town theater or teatro de la ciudad where local school events, politics, town hall meetings, folkloric dances and art take place.

Bustamante also has a history museum.  They have an English speaking guide on hand so no one goes without information and interpret the signs.   

Okay, so here we are at the party.   Wow, guess who's dancing?   We had the best time with all the games Lorena had put together.  The best one was the coronita (crown).   The team at each table selects a person to wear a crown.   The person can't see the crown but there is a word written across the top.   The person wearing the crown asks yes or no questions until the person can discover the word or the clock runs out.  

We also get into deep discussions at our table with friends about politics, family , education, religion and sex.   It can go on all night.   Our friend Mario, in the beige jacket, just finished his master degree.  He travels around the globe with his company.  This month he is off to Brasil after working in the Middle East.

The day after having breakfast at the Hotel Ancira restaurant.  Truly norteño style Mexican food.  The best actually.   Bustamante is also known for its breads and empanadas filled with piloncillo, nuts, raisins and spices.   The best ever.   There is a huge lot behind the hotel for rv parking.  We´ve parked here before.

En fin, Nuevo Leon is truly a friendly state and of course you can always come and visit us!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Visitors and New Signs of Change

Marina and David came by for a couple of days.

I was surprised to see that even though they had visited several times before, they had never been to the waterfalls.  Off we went and they loved it.   They are great guests like all the rvers that come to stay with us.  Never had a bad experience.  

We watched Obama's farewell speech after a great dinner prepared by Marina.   We sat by the Christmas tree with the laptop in front of us with the feed from  We had a few drinks before hitting the hay.

They are heading down to their usual winter stomping grounds at Puerto Escondido with a week's stop in San Miguel de Allende at a house they have rented.   David posted pics from Dolores Hidalgo this afternoon I am assuming they spent the night there before moving to their rental today.

I took a couple of mountain shots while we were up high in the waterfalls.  I really enjoy the views we have here in our area.  It's too bad people are all too eager to "beat feet" across the border when in reality this area and the border are much safer than where most rvers spend their winters, statistics have proven.

The buzz this week is the gasoline prices but also be aware that you will be seeing some changes in gas stations.   OXXO Gas has opened its chain of stations along with their convenience stores which provide a world of services from bank deposits, money tranfers, wire transfers from store to store, car insurance and the list goes on.   You will be guaranteed liter for liter of fuel.   Change is coming to Mexico and has been in the works for years.  Lets get rid of this ancient dinosaur of a nationalized oil company that has pretty much ruined the Mexican economy for years with corrupt unions and employees on the take and ring a new era that is more globally competitive.

Seven 11 or Super 7 is also introducing their own brand and logo and have begun this month to open or revamp their stores and stations.   And you thought this would never happen!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Year Post - Past and Present

New Year's Eve with family in Monterrey

As you  know we went to the white sands of Mexico during Christmas.  I am posting our last day there.  I never got around to it.   It was fun.  We went to the marble mines of Cuatro Cienegas.  They are now closed and it is actually a mountain made of marble that was cut into cubed-size pieces.   The veins that run through the marble are now to wide (where water once ran millions of years ago) and the marble is no longer useful for walls, tiles or counter tops.

Sitting on top of the marble mine you can see how large the pieces are.

You can see the lines where they bore down with giant drills to split the marble.

Beautiful scenery from the Coahuila desert.

Our trip home was fast and uneventful,  We came down through Monclova, Saltillo, Monterrey and then home.   Backed the rv in the driveway without any issues.  We rested for three days and then headed out to San Antonio.   We chose to leave late Monday afternoon and spend the night at the Holiday Inn in Nuevo Laredo.   Very nice hotel with cocktail hour and breakfast.   We woke up early thinking we would beat the crowds.   We spend seven hours in line to cross the bridge.   

This week all of the American and Canadian paisanos were heading back home after the holidays.   But the big issue was a glitch in the computer systems on the U.S. side.  An advantage was that all of the paisanos had to go to immigration to cancel their TIP permits for their vehicles.  That freed up the line tremendously.   It was the computer glitch that took its toll.   As we approached the bridge, Juan took off in a taxi for the old Laredo bridge downtown.  It is closed to traffic for remodeling but foot traffic is permitted.  Once I got to the booth, he didn't even swipe my passport.  He couldn't.  No system.  He asked me three questions and off I went to the other bridge.   Off we went for San Antonio.

The purpose of the trip was to finalize the new roof on the house, do an inspection, speak with our wonderful tenants about the possibility of purchasing the house.  They love it and we do too but it is too far away to manage.  The roof will be done on the 15th of this month and that is one issue out of the way.  Our tenants keep an immaculate house and it is beautifully decorated.  We're not in any hurry and would like to help them as they recently tied the knot.

Gasoline in Mexico is now the big topic.   I guess we all have short-term memories.   Remember 2014?  We found fuel in Langely, B.C. at $5.75.   Our trip was great but the fuel prices almost broke the budget or really did break the budget.  We slowed down, stayed out of California, came down around the Great Lakes, flew to Nova Scotia and used GasBuddy all in an effort to reduce our expenses.

So now Mexico is joining the global markets.   The mega-nationalized oil company Pemex has been forced to join the ranks of other countries and their oil based economies.   Gas is now around $2.82 a gallon for Magna (regular) and we will now see a free-floating price for fuel as of February 18th.   As stated by the famous economist and Assistant Secretary of Energy, Miguel Messmacher, the prices will fluctuate on a 24 hour basis based on oil pricing and the dollar.  Maybe we need to change the dependence on a dollar led economy?

Yes, there were strikes, some looting in isolated cities and parts of those cities.  You know how the media can make it look like Mexico is on fire.  Speaking of Mexico and comparisons, I stumbled across an interesting website called Numbeo.   You can compare cost of living, crime, safety, pollution, traffic, quality of life as well as property values on a country to country city to city basis.  The data comes from individuals who participate in surveys.  Here is one on crime:

On another note, the temperature here at the house at 9:45 a.m. is -1C.  It will reach 4C today and drop down to maybe -2C tonight before warming up on Monday.   Marina and David from Perth, ON are keeping warm in Corpus Christi before heading down here for a day or two on their way to San Miguel de Allende.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

White Sands Cuatro Cienegas (Los Arenales de Cuatro Cienegas)

What a great day.  We are having breakfast at the hotel restaurant.  The food is such a great price and it gives us a chance to do our internet mail, Facebook and blog.  

We headed out to the visitor´s center where we were met by our guide Hector.  He is finishing high school and will be studying at the university in Saltillo.  He has chose to study environmental chemistry.  He has studied the area most of his life and has taking courses to prepare him to be a guide on weekends and holidays.   He´s a smart kid and is looking forward to working in his field. 

We headed out 13 kms to the gate that leads to the dunes.   All 30 guides have a key to open the gate.   This is highly protected and you couldn´t find a piece of paper on the ground if you wanted to.   The desert area is surrounded by a couple of mines that take the gypsum and turn it into plaster for sheet rock and floating plaster that is exported to the U.S. as well.

This dune was created over a period of 17,000 years and started with a tree.  The winds blew the sand up around the tree until, after many years, the tree died but left the beginnings of a dune.  It is now solid as a rock.   You can climb the dune but there are signs warning you to remove your shoes in an effort to maintain it.   

There are over 300 different plant species in the area.   Below are just a few.   We didn´t see any animals but there are black bears in the hills, mountain lions, coyotes, kangaroo rats, blue tailed lizards, three different types of turtles, and egrets.   

We spent about an hour at the dunes before heading back to drop Hector off.  He said we could hire him to take a look at night when the stars are out.   The school has star nights where the students can do some gazing.   Imagine the light of the moon against the white sands.  Wow!

We spent the afternoon walking around town planning our day today.   We will visit local museums and the two wineries.   Tomorrow we will head back home .  We thought about heading to San Antonio but it´s a long drive.  As you may have heard, we will have another gas price increase here in Mexico, 14%.   Looks like we will be using the rv just around our house, at least for the next year until we see how prices settle.   

I have a feeling that once the private stations take over, price wars will begin and fuel prices will level off.   Wish we could continue on but the dollar is expensive and our house in San Antonio needs a new roof and central air conditioner for 2017.   

Monday, December 26, 2016

Poza Azul - Cuatro Cienegas

The town still remains pretty quiet.  Today is Monday morning and people are back to their routine.  We're sitting in the hotel restaurant taking advantage of their delicious and economically priced breakfasts.   Hey we're on vacation.  

Yesterday we took the trip to the pozas.   The visitor's center was open.  Behind it are three pozas:  the Poza Azul, a man-made poza used for demonstrations and El Borbollon (the bubbler) where the water comes out of the spring at  a super fast pace considering this is dry desert.

The entrance fee is 30 pesos per person and you can walk the kilometer to the Poza Azul.  There is a covered palapa and an elevated walkway for observation.  The poza goes down to a depth of 100 meters and you can see fish and plant life that are endemic to the area.   The visitor's center has some basic information in English and Spanish so I took pictures to investigate further in my free time.

Boo hoo.  It came out blurry.  This is fascinating information about the formation of life on Earth.

We made arrangements to be taken to the sand dunes this morning.  The cost is 30 pesos each and is a 20 minute drive from the visitor's center.  You can take your own car and the guide rides with you.  They have two very nice and modern vans for larger groups.   They make it clear that we are to tip the tour guide as that is how he makes his money.  Can't wait.  

The hotel owner has been more than accommodating.   He visits with us when we are here in the restaurant and turns out that he is one of the great-great grandchildren of Venustiano Carranza instrumental in the Mexican Revolution and Mexican politics.   They also own a winery called Ferriño which we will visit this afternoon.   There is another, Vitali.  Maybe we can do both. 

Rocmoc made a comment about Mexican Area 51.   This area is used by the military and airplane manufacturers as a test ground and many things have been done here over the years.   I´ll be checking that out. 

A bit chilly this morning.  A cold front is moving through.  Brrrr.   Slept like babes with the electric blanket.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

No Place At The Inn . . . Almost!

As we were getting ready to leave Saturday morning, I walked to the front of the house to open the gate.  When I turned around and headed back to the rv I noticed the SUV leaning to one side.  I looked around only to find one of the tires completely flat.   Hmm.   I took out the small compressor we have and started to work.  Once it was full and I checked the pressure I turned off the engine in an attempt to hear where the leak was coming from.   Loud hissing and I thought the worst.    I put my finger over the valve and it was leaking from there.   The valve pin was stuck.  I pricked it with my finger nail and it worked.   Off we went.

We passed through Monterrey which is made up of 9 different municipalities.   No issues until we got to Santa Catarina.   Whizzing down the major avenue which is eight lanes, I was motioned by a transito to stop, right there in the far left fast lane.   Long story short he and his partner said we were not supposed to be driving in that lane with the rv.   Well then, give me a ticket.   I was ready to argue with him but he was right.  I knew he picked me out of the line up.   He said that all my papers were in order and decided to let us go.  Leaving Santa Catarina and entering Garcia right before the highway to Saltillo we were stopped again.  This guy was too funny.   He accused me of drinking and asked me to blow my breath into his newbee partner’s face.   I did and the older of the two asked him, “Well?”.   The kid didn’t know what to say and rolled his head around like a ball.   Then he asked if we had insurance.   I told him of course we do.  He handed me back my license and off we went to Cuartro Cienegas.

Into Saltillo and through Monclova we took the libramiento taking us around Monclova and onto the desert to Cuatro Cienegas.   We arrived around 2:30 as planned and passed through the town. 

Very quiet and orderly town if I may say.   We got to the visitor’s center for the preserve and it was locked up and closed although the sign said 5 p.m.  We were hoping to spend the night there.   There is the Pozo de Los Mezquites nearby so we headed there. 

Very high security and you are warned that the area has cameras (which you can see) and patrolled by local/state police and the military.   Okay, sounded good to us.   We took the 1.8 km road rough but solid, and arrived to the guard station.   You can see the white sands on both sides although the dunes are another 13 kms further up the highway.  They were friendly but refused us posada.   They told us there is no camping allowed at any of the five preserves in the area.  

We headed back to town and parked in the square while one of us checked around.   Two patrol cars pull up and start a conversation with me.  Nope, no place in town, can’t boondock not even a gas station.  We were in luck though and found a hotel with a huge parking lot.   After much unfriendliness in this town it was surprising they let us stay.   The owner is very nice and offered us electric and wifi for 250 pesos a night.   Not what we wanted to do but we took it.    They even gave us a restaurant menu and said they would deliver.   Set up and found a flat tire on the trailer.  We’ll deal with that after Christmas.

Today (Sunday) we’re heading out to the dunes to go hiking and see if we can’t find a place to boondock.  Strange town though, very well-maintained, clean but empty.  The few minutes I sat in the plaza the police stopped everyone including kids on ATVs.  No loud music anywhere around last night as we went for a walk.  Something strange is going on here.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I Want A Motorhome For Christmas

Actual unit for sale.

That's right, I want a motorhome for Christmas.  About ten years ago the founder of the Bounder motorhome started a new company, CT Coachworks.  The idea was to create a full-time motorhome that was truly residential.  It had everything including full-size residential appliances and even a dishwasher and trash compacter.  That was when it wasn't popular to have a residential fridge in your rv.   Those days have passed and many Class A owners go for a full-size residential fridge.  The company started off on the wrong foot by naming their motorhome the Flounder.   It started to nose dive right away until the name was changed to Siena.   It lasted a couple of years and they made two sizes; 35ft and 39ft.  I found one this last week and can't get it out of my head.  I had even joined the owners group website which is now defunct.   In the end, not many were made but the company survives making custom limousines.  They continue to honor recalls, repairs, and warranty type items.

Back to reality, the Christmas tree is up and shining brightly.   Firewood is stacked in the corner of the porch waiting to build a fire in the fireplace.  The last couple of nights the temperatures hovered close to freezing and it is still around 7C, dripping and foggy.   This next week goes back to 29C during the day.  Believe it or not, the trees at our house still have most of their leaves.   Across the street the trees are bare.

This week will be my last week of work for the year.   I'll spend the next week getting the rv ready and doing some maintenance work here around the house, mostly cleaning windows, cobwebs around the outside of the house under the eaves.   

The pool is getting a makeover but it will be done a bit at a time.  It's winter so we have time to get the leaks repaired, grout the tile and cover the deck area with tile or some other product.   Still undecided.   

We ordered a dump truck of rocky material (lajilla) and it spread in front of our house and also filled a few potholes.  We'll need another load or two so that might be my project also.