Monday, January 28, 2008

New silverware

After Marilyn's mother died we were temporary custodians of her two sets of silverware. We got pretty spoiled - we had one set in the bus and the other in the house & we used them. Then the rightful owner came along and we had to go back to using stainless steel. But its hard to go back so we said to ourselves that we would wait until we got to Quartzsite and then shop for an estate sale of silverware.

So last week after we got set up in Q we started looking for silverware, among other things. Sometimes Q can get pretty overwhelming but this year we had enough time that we could spend a few hours each day wandering around the flea markets and, when we got tired of it, go home. Its hard to describe how big this flea market really is. Its spread out over a variety of locations but, if you moved it all together in one spot, there is probably 7-800 acres of flea market centred around Quartzsite.

Early in the week Marilyn found a set of silverware but the guy wanted $250 for it and we really didn't want to spend that much so we kept looking. We had bought a decent set of stainless flatware as soon as we got to Mexico so that we wouldn't feel any pressure to buy something until we found the right set. We thought we were done with the flea markets on Thursday but Friday turned out to be a really nice day & we both wanted to go back to the RV show so we went in for one last trip. After we had Marilyn's birthday lunch at the rib place outside the RV tent Marilyn headed off to look for a red scrubby and a cat harness. I wandered around a few junk vendors that we hadn't seen yet and there it was - a set of about 45 pieces of 1847 Rogers "Adoration". It was in really good shape, not a complete set of 8 but 6 or more of most pieces. And the price on it was $37.50. So I got busy and negotiated and ended up paying $30 for the set complete with the display case. Since then we've found a few completer pieces on ebay and we are back to eating with silverware. The completer pieces should catch up with us in Las Vegas if everything goes according to plan.

Saturday morning we left in the twilight so we could miss the traffic through Quartzsite. We stopped in Parker for breakfast at what looked to be the local coffee shop. The parking lot was full and there was only one booth left when we walked in. I love going into small town coffee shops as a stranger - everybody looks at you and you can hear them asking "who is that???"

When we got to Lake Havasu we moved into Crazy Horse campground where our friends Dave & Elaine Coney from Kenosee Lake spend the winter. We'll spend a few days here before we move to Las Vegas to get Marilyn settled in while I fly to Winnipeg for the CAAR convention. We've got a pretty impressive spot here - the beach and lake are directly out our front window. Jorgito is having fun chasing birds from one end of the rig to the other. Occasionally the grackles walk around on the roof and that really gets him going.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On the desert with a few 100 thousand other RVs

We left Las Glorias on Saturday and went most of the way to the border. Sometime after dark we found a Pemex fuel plaza north of Hermosillo and pulled in there for the night. We feel pretty secure in them - they are staffed 24 hours and this one is right next to a toll booth which has 24 hour security. Sunday morning we didn't get a real early start but we were still at the US border around noon. We stopped a few miles south of the border to eat our pork chops because we were pretty sure they couldn't come into the US unless they were in our bellies.

Apparently we should have also eaten the lilies that Alicia gave us on Friday. The border jerk asked us if we had anything to declare so we ran through the stuff that we thought we needed to declare. Then he went into the bus and promptly came back out carrying the lilies (cut flowers) that Alicia had given us. He was on a major rant. Then he proceeded to shake down the whole bus and gave Marilyn several lectures about what fools we were to try to smuggle things into the US. Meanwhile I was having a wonderful visit with his partner about masonry - Marilyn thinks that was part of their game but I think she was dealing with an asshole and I wasn't. When Mr. Official finally got done with her he gave her a list of things that couldn't come into the US. Guess what - lilies are OK. Of course we didn't discover that until much later and much further down the road.

We spent Sunday night in a truck stop west of Phoenix. We've stayed there before - it has recently changed ownership but its still a good place to spend the night. It even had wi-fi which let us make some Skype calls to people we hadn't talked to for a while.

Monday morning we came the last 75 miles over to Quartzsite. Its hard to explain Quartzsite to anyone who hasn't been here before. The first time we came here we swore we would never come back but over the years it has kind of grown on us. This link just talks about the Quartzsite RV show but there is a lot more to Q than just a great big RV show. Tyson Wells is the organizer for the flea market that is running right now. The Tyson Well show focusses on stuff that RVers might buy. In addition to those two main events there are a host of minor flea markets running all over the town selling everything from bootleg CDs to polished rocks to antiques - junk in other words.

As far as numbers of RVs go I have heard all kinds of estimates of the numbers that show up every winter. Marilyn likes to say that 1,000,000 show up - it isn't 1,000,000 but it could easily be 100,000. When you come over the ridge from the east it isn't hard to see where the free parking areas in the desert are. As far as you can see to the north and south you can see little pockets of RVs sharing a chunk of desert. We're in a group of about 30 rigs, all of us Escapees members, that got together to celebrate our first year of full time RV living. About 200 yards to the north of us there are 70 Bluebird coaches from the southwest US getting together. Just east of town there were around 40 converted Eagles that got together. Across the road there are apparently nekkid people that get together each winter - its too cold for us to be over there. Its going down to 7 or 8 at night but our furnace has decided to work again so that has been pleasant. Not sure why it couldn't have worked when it was -20 in Regina in early December.

Its a great place to fix up all the little stuff that gets neglected on the bus. Today I found a supply of the little halogen bulbs that are so hard to find anywhere else so now we can get the sunshine ceiling shining again. I also found a ladder for the back of the bus - I've been looking for a used ladder for years because I didn't want to pay the price for a new one. Once I get finished mounting the ladder tomorrow I'll go up on the roof and take a better panoramic photo.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Of Boys & Their Busses

Yesterday morning we packed up and left Miramar relatively early. Not real early but we got away in decent time. We couldn't leave real early because there was a bus parked in our way. They have some pretty neat busses down here - Irizar for example. There was one of them showed up in the campground last week with a load of kids from Mexico DF. They must have been on some kind of school tour. The bus was gorgeous. Yesterday it was a Busscar that was blocking the gate. They're pretty cool looking too but while I was admiring their bus the drivers were admiring our bus too. I could see them watching me getting ready to leave and finally they got up the nerve to come over and introduce themselves. We had a short visit during which we each complimented the other's busses. Evidently they had never seen a bus conversion and they were curious about why we had hoses (sewer & water) extending out from the bus. I said "they" because high end busses down here always have two drivers. They even have a sleeping compartment built into the baggage area so that one driver can catch some rest on the road.

We had a pretty good run up here to Guasave. It was frustrating in the early going. People who have never been down here talk about not wanting to come for fear of banditos. What they don't understand is that they don't need to worry about banditos - they do however need to worry about topes and revisions. Yesterday morning we got revisioned nearly to death by various levels of police and soldiers in search of contraband with varying levels of scrutiny at each location. And we slowed down for topes at innumerable little towns along the way. But we stayed on the free roads until we got to Culiacan late in the afternoon, just at dusk. At that point we were 150 km from Guasave & I had just about had enough of topes and revisions so we hopped on the cuota (toll-road) and ran the rest of the way to Guasave on the pay-as-you-go program. It cost us 358 pesos (about $36) to run 154 km but it was worth every cent of it.

Today we had a look at the property that Adrianna phoned us about. There's not much there but they didn't want much for it either. So we went into Guasave & met with a lawyer just so I could get an idea about what additional charges we might face. It didn't sound too ominous so Adrianna phoned the owner back but he now claims that he has 3 potential buyers for the property and we are not at the top of the list. Que sera sera. As it turns out there is another piece of property available here at the beach - I suspect it is one of many that are available - we are going to look at it tomorrow. In theory it has power, water, sewer and in its case the power is actually present on the property - ie. you don't have to run a cord across the road to the neighbour's whenever you want lights as we would have had to at the first place. Stay tuned.

When we got back to Tavo's park tonight the power was still out at our site and the others in the immediate vicinity. According to Adrianna & Carlos Juan the reason Karla had her falling out with Tavo when she worked for him was because he never paid his bills. Karla eventually paid his power bill with her personal funds one day to prevent them from turning off the power to the park. Then she waited 8 months for Tavo to reimburse her. So it may be a while before Tavo is able to get someone to come fix the electrical panel if he has the same payment plan with all his suppliers. Its a good thing we have a generator.

The power was out at our site and all the neighbouring sites when we left this morning but I didn't think much of it because the night watchman claimed that it was out all over the park so I assumed it must be a larger problem. Tonight though the lights are on on the other side and in the hotel but we still didn't have power. Maybe tomorrow I'll offer to fix it for him. I continue to be amazed by how little people of means down here understand about fixing really basic stuff that Canadian homeowners would generally never consider hiring someone else to do. My guess is that there is a wire burned off at one of the main breakers in his panel or possibly even just a poor connection but evidently no one bothered to do even that basic of a look see all day today.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Starting week 2 in paradise

Except for the biters this is a wonderful spot. In spite of the biters it is still a pretty great spot but they sure do bite. They've got a local bug repellant "Autan" that seemed to work the last time we were here but it doesn't seem to work this time. Maybe our old stuff has expired.

We're going to spend another week here and then move up to Teacapan for a while. Earlier this week we went down to Puerto Vallarta to visit Ken MacQuarrie, his girls and his mother who were staying at an all inclusive resort in Nuevo Vallarta. For a wonder we were able to drive right into the resort - usually those all inclusives are actually all exclusive if you aren't staying at them. We took the MacQuarries downtown in PV and found a restaurant that would make us camarones rellenos - shrimp wrapped in bacon. They were wonderful as usual.

There were several parties in the hotel in front of the park over New Year's week, including a quinciniera. That is a coming out party for a 15 year old from the middle class. It started about 4 in the afternoon and went late into the evening. They had about an 8 piece band - could have used a better lead singer but the band was pretty good. The festivities included a very choroegraphed routine that the girl and several of her friends performed. Through the whole affair papa sat at the head table looking dour. I'm sure the prospect of picking up a significant tab had something to do with his look.

The seafood here is amazing. We go to the market in San Blas early in the morning and they have fresh fish of all varieties. So far we have had fresh tuna, sierra (mackerel) and dorado (mahi-mahi) as well as some huge shrimps and fresh oysters. We're talking shrimp so big that 5 of them is too much to eat at one sitting. I've figured out how to barbeque them, sometimes with a little marinade. Marilyn thinks she will live forever if she eats less of them so I have been forced to soldier on eating them alone.

Tomorrow we are going to Tepic. I think we can get a Mexican cell phone for very little money and use prepaid cards to operate it. We talked to a couple from Ontario who got one last winter. I've thought about getting a Mexican phone before but didn't know how to maintain a phone number. However, according to the couple from Ontario, their number stayed active while they were back in Canada. They had a credit balance on their phone while they were out of the country - that may have helped maintain the number - whatever the reason we're going to give it a try because the phone system is the greatest frustration to traveling down here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Random ramblings on New Years Day

I was thinking this morning about how much more pleasant it is travelling down here compared with the last time we were here. Its been 5 or 6 years since we were this far south and 4 years since we were last in Mexico. In that time the infrastructure has improved - dramatically in some areas and incrementally in others. The highways are better although some of them are still extremely narrow and some of the tolls are barbaric, everything is cleaner as though the country had finally abandoned the notion that every wide spot in the pavement was the local garbage dump, there's a lot of evidence of new construction and not nearly so many antique Dinas travelling the highways with massive overloads. Electronic technology has made a huge difference too - its not unusual now to have wi-fi access in a park and we have our own means of accessing the internet wherever we are. Feeling like we are connected to the world in Canada makes a huge difference to how comfortable we feel. The ability to scan the news at home helps us stay connected and, whenever we have wi-fi, we can also get streaming radio from virtually any station we want. In theory we can get streaming radio content off the satellite as well but the latency on the connection makes that a little less reliable although occasionally workable.

Some things haven't changed down here. While Navajoa seems to have outlawed topes, the omnipresent speed bumps on steroids that Mexicans love to use to control traffic speeds, other areas definitely have not. One of my favorite sayings down here is "en Mexico tienen mas topes que gente." You can use babelfish to sort that out if it really needs translation. Another thing that hasn't changed is the mañana attitude. "Mañana" literally translates to "tomorrow" or "morning" and it is used in that context but it is also used in the context of "not now". As in "I will fix that mañana" which the gringo foolishly thinks means that the thing will be fixed tomorrow but to the mexican can just as easily mean "it ain't gonna get fixed today." So the site that we are parked in here at Miramar has this swampy sinkhole directly to the south of it. You have to be careful where you walk - fortunately the parking is on concrete because we would literally go out of sight if we drove into the wet area. The neighbours said they had reported the area to the park management - it is obvious that there is a break in the water line somewhere close to the surface in that area. No problem - they haven't got around to fixing it yet. Then yesterday a guy pulled in next to us from California and said "Oh, I see they haven't fixed the leak that was there last year."

And on the subject of neighbours. I guess I'm prejudiced against La Belle Province - maybe that isn't too big a surprise to anyone who is reading this. There's three couples here that I thought were from Quebec & I was making an effort to control my prejudice. One of the couples was noticeably more friendly - Gary & I have had several conversations & I actually enjoy his company. Guess what? Turns out they live in BC. He happens to speak french so he does that out of respect for the two couples from Quebec but he isn't from there. One of the Quebecois accosted me yesterday and told me that my wifi was interfering with his access to the park wifi. We don't have wifi. I've disabled it in my router but the damn thing insists on broadcasting its name despite the fact that I have removed its antenna. I would change the name to something like "not available" but the guys that set it up in Ontario put in a password and then forgot what the password is. So I could reset the router and reconfigure it but I've got it mounted in a cabinet and it would be a PITA & I just haven't got around to doing it. So anyway, Mr. Frog accosted me and accused me of interfering with his access to the park wifi. I tried to explain what was going on which basically is that we aren't interfering with bugger all but he wasn't buying. Then I figured out that the reason he claimed we were interfering was because, when he was parked directly beside us he could access the wifi but when they moved (farther away from the office) he couldn't. So I said "why don't you go sit over there?" and gestured to where he used to be parked. "Oh well my wife she wants to look at it at night" I walked away.

I think we've talked ourselves back out of the property idea. We will still meet with the real estate agent again but there are challenges to non-Mexicans owning property close to the beach and, even if there weren't, we probably wouldn't own recreational property. We have always rented our recreational property and it has worked well for us. I think some people mix up recreation and investment in their heads and that isn't necessarily wrong but it doesn't work for us. If we make an investment decision to invest in recreational property there are ways to do that; if we make an investment decision to invest in Mexican property there are ways to do that too; and if we want to combine the two properties there are ways to do that. None of those investment decisions requires that we live on and use the property.

As long as we can rent in the areas that we want to spend time in we think that makes the most sense for us. This location would be a perfect example - we're in a garden like setting within 500 feet of the ocean. Owning a location like this, even just enough space to park in, would cost probably $250,000. That's more money than we would want to risk in what is still a difficult investment climate. Legally non-mexicans can't hold the title to property within something like a 50 mile range of the ocean. There are a host of ways to get around that restriction but it doesn't change the fact that there is some risk involved. If we want to invest in beachfront property there are ways to do that without the risk that the government will someday expropriate all the foreign controlled land. There's plenty of precedent for that kind of unilateral action right in this country (and I guess right in our family as well) and no need to expose ourselves to that risk.