Sunday, March 19, 2017

Some Things I Just Don't Understand

Still doing lots of this.  Mexico City, Tampico, another Mexico City and then Bogota.  Who knows what's next.  I'm hoping they like me in South America and I can do a six-country tour during this next year.

As usual, I'm not blogging much anymore.  It's the same old routine here at the ranch and it even gets boring for me to write about it.   All is well and we are biding our time waiting for that magical day when we both have a retirement check.  I'll be too old to do anything with it.  I have to say though that plans are coming together and we tend to agree more and more each day about what we want to do. 

I'm still going to Colombia next week for four days.  No sense in staying longer by myself.  It just doesn't sound fun.  I've been there and I am sure I could find a month's worth of activities to keep me busy.

I've been walking six to eight kilometers every evening and the mornings on the weekend in addition to my running and weight workout at the gym.   Diet is still an issue even though I've eliminated most of the animal stuff except for once in awhile.  Very hard to break 60 year old habits.   I still have the on-going pain in my chest.  It comes and goes.  I have an appointment but as some of you know, social medicine can take awhile especially for an MRI.   

On my walk this morning I did quite a bit of observation.  You know that Mexico is like any other country and it has its good, the bad and the ugly.   Where we live is a tourist corridor along the highway.   It is filled with shops on one side and buffets on the other.  They sell un chingo de furniture along with local eats such as pan de elote (corn bread), miel de caña (a drink made from sugar cane), camote en jarabe (sweet potato and squash in honey), things like that.   People pack the place on weekends.  Some of the shops are nice but in general, and I hate to say it, the place is a real dump.  

Many years ago, before the bad times came (which are now gone around these parts), I knew many of the younger folks who had shops.  They are mostly revendedores (resellers).  All nice people but they lack one important ingredient, education.   During those years and even now, we have programs to help the small business person.  I'm not an NGO fan as I believe I pay taxes for these programs and we need to take advantage of them.   I had helped or attempted to help several of these people.   I talked to them about the programs, what the requirements were, paperwork, etc.   They had to take a course.  That was the first show stopper.  The loans and courses were available if you met the requirements and they were fairly simple; be a registered taxpayer, and have a registration number.  As a contribuyente pequeño (small contributor) you only need to show an estimated amount of income, for example, 5000 pesos a month.  You would then pay a fixed monthly tax of say 300 pesos.  However, that would be sufficient to get you into the program.   

I was only able to help one person, a woman from the gym.  She had a laundry and washed people's clothes using a residential washer and dryer.  The dryer and the electricity did use consume much because most people like their clothes line dried.   When you don't use a clothes dryer you don't want your cottons to be dried as they will shrink.  So the next time you have laundry done in Mexico and you have some things you don't want in the dryer just tell them line dry.   I do it when I am in SMA.  

She was hesitant but after time she accepted.   She went to the course, she paid the small fees and off she went.  She was able to obtain a low-interest government loan that helped her build a small yet viable commercial laundry service.  She has accounts with restaurants and asilos (nursing homes) to do their linens.  She also added a tintoreria (dry cleaning) although she sends it off to a plant in Monterrey.  It can be done but the problems are the following:

1) lack of education  (most folks around here don't finish secondary out in the country)
2) lack of confidence in the government
3) the government doesn't get the information out to the locals

Government does a good job in these programs but it takes effort and you have to have the confidence of the people.   One of the governments responsibilities is to provide employment and in Mexico it does.  It doesn't work though because no takes advantage of the programs which in turn allows for a lot of employees to sit around doing nothing.  The more you sit around the more -bureaucratic thins become.  It's a catch-22.

I guess I put to much into it.  It's just that it could be so much more and people could have more income, better living conditions, and have happier lives overall.  If you've stuck with me this far, then maybe some of you have a better perspective.  Remember that Juan did his PhD thesis on dropout rates in Mexico.   The lowest denominator on the list was economic.  The highest was lack of interest.

Our pool remodel is almost finished.  The grout work has been redone and we are planning on a formal palapa not a gazebo.   We haven't decided yet on a tile deck, stamped concrete, or cool deck products which are like a stucco effect but the material doesn't get hot in the sun.  

We opened up the trailer this afternoon and are going there for happy hour to talk about our two-week trip during Semana Santa to San Luis Potosi.

Keep tabs on Ruth and Kevin.  They are in Italy right now.  Contessa and Colin are enjoying incredible sunsets every evening and Norma and Croft are basking in the Arizona sun.   

Monday, February 27, 2017

12 Kilometers and 1820 Meters Cerro de la Silla

We all have a bucket list and Juan Manuel has his.  So to start off the beginning of 60 years (that is so hard to say and I know people will say it's just a number) we decided to tackle the mountain monument of Monterrey, Cerro de la Silla or in English Saddle Back Mountain.

There are two climbs that are on the same trail.  The first is the Teleferico or platform where a cable car used to run up until 40 years ago.  Some people do that everyday and that takes about an hour.  That's a tough one by itself.   The second and most difficult is the antenna at the very top which is over 5300 feet.   What makes the climb difficult is the rocky path which you can see in the picture and the fact that most of the climb is at a 45 degree angle.  The rock is slippery and quite a few people if not all, at one point or another, take a slip or a fall.  

I wore my fairly new hiking boots with double socks.  They worked great on the way up but on the way down because of the angle, my toes were jamming into the front of the boots which made them very sore towards the end.   

This is just halfway at the platform so you can get an idea of the altitude.

When we reached the platform, we took a break and had a snack.  People actually pack huge sacks of fresh oranges and coolers to sell food at the platform.  It's all prepared food because no fires are allowed.   On our way down we had just missed a couple of bears who were looking for some leftovers.   Bear warnings are placed at the beginning of the climb.

We continued up and up and the further we went we found we were pretty much alone.  Most people had turned back but I was urged on although at one point I too was ready to go back.  But a promise is a promise and I had a change of attitude.  Onward ho!  Stops became more frequent about every 150 meters for just a minute or two and a sip of water.   

People who had made it to the top and were coming down had huge smiles of accomplishment on their faces.   We carried on.   We had left at 7:30 in the morning and made it to the top by 10:45.  Kevin and Ruth can do this one next time they are in town but they'll be doing it without me.  I don't think we saw any 60 year olds on the trail.  

Finally to the top, we made it.  The last 30 minutes we were walking through the clouds.  We could see the antenna and we had actually climbed to the top and met the goal.   It was pretty scary as we were actually climbing on the rock at the peak on the left that you see in the first picture at the beginning of this blog post.  In the pic below you can only see part of the antenna.  I don't know how tall it is but it's huge.

After a short rest, I had my reward in mind.  Some of the best enchiladas in Monterrey.   I was feeling a bit sick to my stomach but it was from the thinning air and the hard breathing.   We headed down the mountain but it was actually more difficult because of the slippery rock.  I fell once but picked myself up and continued.   Feeling better little by little I knew my reward would be soon.

Very satisfied!  That look of confidence.  

It took us over an hour to come back down.  It was fast and my boots were failing me.  I'm very disappointed in what I thought were good boots.  Anyway, we made it.  Exhausted and tired we rested for a few minutes and then took the six block walk back to the car.  The entrance and the trail coming down were pretty much empty.   BTW, bags are placed at the beginning of the trail to pack out your trash and they encourage you to help pick up after those very very few who do litter.  Very clean hike, beautiful surroundings and you get to the top you can see the changes in the flora.  

Enchiladas, great company and a Saturday rest that was incredible.   Muscles ache and toe hurt but we did it!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mazatlan - The Rest of the Story

Here we went and came back from Mazatlan but I never finished the story.  It was great and a great time had by all.   The big get together at Contessa and Colin's was a big blow out.  The food was served potluck and everyone brought a dish that was not only attractive but very delicious too.   We started out with  a delicious smoked marlin and cheddar cheese hors d' oeuvre.   The place was packed and it was just lots of great conversation all night.  I didn't get to make the rounds as I should have but sharing ideas, laughs and a few guffaws were heard throughout the night.

Birthday Boy!

Juan and Colin setting off a lantern to light the night! 

Another pic of our hotel Maria Coral.  I just got a price update and it is still available for $30 u.S. per night.  It's a real deal, right on the beach, with pool and wonderful restaurant.

Sunday we went to a show at the Angela Peralta City Theater.   They have a series of shows including opera, symphony, and singers.  This was an a cappella group who sang and performed for over an hour.  They're young, dynamic and have a wide range of pieces that they do in both Spanish and English.  The best part was the Negro spirituals.  Fantastic.  We were a bit leery about the show at 300 pesos a piece.   Way too cheap for what these guys can do.

After the show we walked through the Plaza Machado and found a wonderful restaurant for lunch.   I really chowed down.   The company (Colin, Contessa, Juan) was the best along with the conversation.  We ordered a pizza that I thought was the best.  A wonderful homemade crust.

Monday morning we lazed around before heading to the airport.  Colin and Contessa gave us a ride.  We took the newly paved road to the airport.   There is a discussion on about whether it is really paved all the way to the park.  The road, eight miles (?) is paved with one small part at the beginning where the golf course is.  Granted, once you get to the area of the Isla where people live, there are sandy streets but they do not inhibit rv travel.   So for me, the road to the Isla is paved.

We got to the airport, said our goodbyes and off we went.  Or we thought so.  Our flight had been delayed two hours.  We headed to a restaurant and had a very pricey lunch while we played with the internet.

It was great to see almost everyone while we were there at the rv parks.   Wish we could have stayed longer and for what we paid we may just do it again.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mazatlan - Friday

Main Plaza in Mazatlan

Tres Amigos Rv 2 from our hotel (heavy fog)

Last night we went to an evening of jazz at El Velero restaurant here on the beach at the Isla.  We went fashionable late although we had walked through the place (a giant palapa) about an hour earlier on our return from a walk around a good part of Isla.   We waved going through without stopping because we were pretty sweaty and stinky.   We headed back to the hotel along the beach and ran into Contessa and Colin.   They were ready to party and said we take a quick shower and head back.

Quite a few rvers showed up so it was great saying hi to many we haven't seen since last year and to meet a few that were from past years or simply visiting rving friends.  We had a wonderful dinner.   I ordered the best shrimp quesadillas ever that came with rice and beans wonderfully served with lots of fresh chopped pico de gallo.  

I hadn't had a vodka for a couple of days (yeah, what's that all about) so the two that I had there were not only well-served but cold and inviting.   We hung out and after dinner headed back down the beach.   Stopping in for a night cap at Contessa and Colin's made for a great close to the evening.  

The hotel had told us that the wifi was only available from the lobby and the pool area.  We've had an excellent signal from our room with the exception of a few minutes this afternoon.

Tonight (Saturday), is the big get together at RV1 at Contessa and Colin's site.  Lots of sharing, drinking and eating will take place.  Today was fun.  We walked up to the lighthouse for our exercise.   Record time for us of 12.5 minutes up which is half the recommended time.  We had a taco after we came down from a street vendor that is located across the street from the lighthouse in front of the secondary school.  Fantastic!   Off on the bus to go to the market where first checked out the cakes at La Panamá bakery across the street before heading in for a shrimp burger.   We split a burger and a quesadilla.   Again, Toni´s shrimp burgers are the best. 

Off to the party!!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Weekend In Mazatlan

What a great deal not to mention the weather.   We chose VivaAerobus which is a Mexican discount airline.  The tickets for two, round trip were $89.   We booked direct on their website.   VivaAerobus uses Airbus A-320 aircraft and the seats are a bit tight but not uncomfortable.   I was able to nap for the first 30 minutes without any issues.  Downside is that there is no open bar or snacks.  They have a great menu with nothing over $6 for a full meal deal.   Drinks are also served at a cost of 50 pesos mixed cocktail and 45 pesos for a beer.  They have a strict check-in policy, two hours prior on all domestic flights.  That said, they are always on time.  

Our flight was one hour and we took a taxi from the airport to the hotel.  In total, from take off to the hotel was a total of two hours.  Pretty neat considering the cost of driving two days, gas and rv park.  We headed over to Contessa and Colin's to say hi.   Good to see all the rvers.  We stopped in to see Ferne and her new rv which is really very luxurious and comfortable.  

The hotel, Maria Coral, sits in between both of the Tres Amigo rv parks, 1 & 2.  I booked that on Travelocity for $35 a night.   It's right on the beach and as you can see from the picture, has a great pool and palapa.   We had breakfast outside this morning.  Very well-served, great service and delicious.   I love homemade hash browns.  Breakfast for two with a carafe of coffee was $7.95.  

The room is adequate for the price, new, clean and shiny.  Two beds, a huge bath with balcony overlooking the pool.   There is also cable television and very good A/C/  Downsides are no room phone, blow dryer or coffee maker.  That said, I went downstairs at 6 a.m. and asked the desk clerk for coffee.  He said the restaurant didn't open until 8 a.m. but he would put on a pot of coffee.   I returned 20 minutes later to a tray with cups/saucers, a carafe of coffee and the cream and sugars.  The price was 20 pesos.  Well worth the walk down one flight of stairs.

This morning was visiting Sue and Jerry at RV2, walking on the beach and of course a nap.   We are off to a jazz gathering at the El Valero restaurant here on the beach.  You've got to love the Isla.  It's so convenient.   We can have a few drinks and walk down the beach tonight to get back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we are climbing up to the lighthouse for some exercise.  Then a trip into town to visit a co-worker and then there is a potluck dinner in the evening.  Colin has put together a fun pack of rafts, flippers, snorkels and masks.   We'll get in the water and splash around and hope to get a good picture of us in the gear.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Upcoming Trips - Mazatlan & San Luis Potosi

I was in Mexico City last week.  It was interesting seeing the difference in gas prices from one zone of the largest American city.   Also the simple fact that everyone seems to have a new car.   According to statistics about 75% of all new cars are financed in Mexico.   Interest rates for cars as well as homes has dropped considerably over the years.   Good trip.  I left Thursday at 7 p.m. and took a flight the next day at 5 p.m. coming back home.  The only problem was that it was Friday and airport traffic is always heavy not to mention the cold, rain and fog in Monterrey that caused us to circle for over half an hour.  Free cocktails and snacks as always though which makes for a relaxing flight.

Trumpa Loompa has been on a roll with his executive orders.  We all know that other presidents have done more in their first few weeks but not orders that affect the whole planet.   Sounds weird, doesn't it?  The whole planet.   He hits hard when he thinks he's winning but he's a sore loser.   His sidekick KellyAnne likes circumvent questions by using the comparison tactic.   Mention something Trump has done and she'll bring up Clinton or Obama.   Quick talking salespersons in my book,   Polls are running at 40% out the door after just two weeks to impeach the bastard.   I've said it all along.  How could anyone vote for a man that said the things about women that spewed from his mouth?  Man or woman, it's not acceptable.  KellyAnne likes to use the Clinton line.  Clinton should have been impeached for his affair inside the White House.   

We have a couple of fun trips coming up.   Juan's birthday is in February.  I booked a flight and hotel for Mazatlan next weekend.   We leave on Thursday and come back the following Monday.   We are staying at that bright yellow hotel that is next to the rv park on Isla de la Piedra.   There will be a potluck dinner.   I don't know if any of you are staying at RV2 but give me a shout out so we get together.   Contessa is putting the potluck together so it is sure to be a real wingding.

Spring break isn't until April 7th for us.  I really wanted to go to New Mexico with the rv but we have decided not to.  With all the uproar over visas and border checkpoints taking place it is best that we just stay at home.   Gas  is more expensive here this year but we have had years in the U.S. and Canada  when it was much more than in Mexico today.   

San Luis is a state nearby that we can get to easily.  We have ventured off the roads a couple of times and have found such jewels as Aquismon and Xilitla along with Guadalcazar.   We plan to go up into the mountains and just take any old road we find in hopes we find overnight spots.   We've never had a problem but I get picky because I want nice places not a gas station or restaurant.   I guess I could do a bit of online exploring.   

More to come as we get closer to our trips.   We just finished Christmas but I feel it's time to hit the road again.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Winter or Summer? Which Is It?

Cerro de la Silla (Saddleback Mountain)

First, just a comment.  My last post I wrote about the border area of Mexico.   There was no response about how you feel regarding the northern states of Mexico and the information I posted.   Factual, it is true that the border area from Reynosa to the west is relatively safe compared to where most rvers winter in Mexico.  I guess like most things, it's about knowing first hand and having reliable information.  Sometimes our comforts zones can fool us.  Being around people (other rvers, ex-pats, like-minded people) help to create a bubble of security.\

The weather here is an oddity by any means of the word.   We are experiencing 35C days and 10C nights.   An extreme contrast for us in this northern clime of Mexico.   It makes you wonder about global warming, what it means and what are the implications.  I know some of you think it is a hoax but I believe it's a hoax in the sense that we are being fed a line that it is man-made.   Couldn't it be both nature and man?

What if we step back and take a look at science.   We live in a capsule.  Nothing enters Earth's atmosphere except for those stray bullet meteors.   All of which are made of inert materials such as metal ores.   If it's a capsule that cannot be penetrated by other means, it also says that what is inside the capsule cannot escape.  Mother Nature creates certain safeguards to ensure that the air contains 21% oxygen.   There are devices designed to help eliminate pollutants such as carbon dioxide.   However, Mother Nature didn't count on man's ability to tinker with her process.   

Think of your garage as Mother Earth.  Line it with trees, a small kiddie pool of water and then turn on your car's engine.  Do you truly believe you'll survive because you have the right mix of what we believe Mother Nature provides to cleanse the air we breathe?   Add up all the vehicles, ships, trains, motors, compressors, factories and their machinery, home appliances, air conditioners.   They all create some type of gas that enters the atmosphere.   They all generate heat.   Doesn't that set off an alarm?   

For many years it was believed that the oceans absorbed this heat.   If it did or does, where does the heat go?  Into the water?   Doesn't it then heat the water?  Can we deny the fact that fossil fuels; gasoline, petrol products, paints, plastics and the list goes on, don't do harm to the planet, the creatures who inhabit it including plant and ocean life?  Let's say that worse case scenario is that it creates visual pollution such as we see over major cities like Los Angeles and Mexico City.   Isn't that enough to motivate us to look for alternatives?

We're in trouble as a planet and as the population grows, and the airs blackens, waters become polluted it's obvious that this isn't normal.

Juan decided to correct an anomaly in his primary dentation (a crooked tooth).  He has braces for the next four months.  Good to have a dentist in the family.

On a much lighter note, Little Bit purposely missed his cat box the other day.  He knew I wasn't happy.   I asked him why he did it and this is the look he gave me.

Back on the road Thursday.  I head out for Mexico City to train some nuns at a private Catholic school.  That will be interesting.  I'll have to watch my Ps and Qs.  Then a vacation weekend away in February.  I'll keep that secret for awhile and then back to Mexico City for the International Best of British where I'll be speaking on Social and Emotional Learning.  

We want to go to Machu Pichu for Spring break but the dollar and the exchange rates are crazy right now.  Not sure what to do.