Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Mumblings

Helen had her cataract surgery Thursday and it went off with out any problems or complications. Friday Morning, we returned to the Vision Center and they took off her patch and checked her vision. To say that Helen is pleased would be a great understatement! She can see to drive ( which means a lot to me when I'm riding shotgun), and she watches TV in the clear. No longer do I have to read her the TV listings off the screen. She does complain that a lot of her favorite actors and actresses have developed some aging lines since she was able to see clearly. Now it's just a matter of keeping up with the drops in her eyes for the six weeks or so. I never really understood what cataracts were and decided to check on-line. If you are interested, go to You Tube and check out a couple of operations. It's a lot less involved than I thought. Very interesting, especially for someone who will be in the market for the same thing in a few years.

I'm still working on the problem with my need for iron in my blood. Another visit with Dr. Acevedo and I'm more convinced that he's the one I want to work with. He goes into my blood results much deeper than anyone else. Also, his office has a system where I can check my charts on-line. I was able to find the last blood test that I had before vacation and, to me, it clearly showed me that my iron and hemoglobin were in the "normal" range, but right on the bottom of the scale. Asking for a little more iron infusion was not out of line at the time. Dr. Acevedo is set to increase my iron a bit and set me up for two infusions. We tried to slip one in yesterday, but they needed some information from my primary doctor and he takes Friday afternoons off. So it will be one infusion next Friday and one the following Friday.

Today I was sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee, wondering how I would use my free time. I should not have worried as Helen soon advised me that the clothes dryer was not heating up. This was going to be easy, I foolishly thought. The heating element must have burned out. Nope, that wasn't it. has to be the thermal overload fuse. Nope, when the fuse blows, the motor will not run. The motor runs, so it can't be the fuse. The thermocouple looks fine and so does everything else. However, when I turn the dryer on, I'm only getting 70 volts AC to the heater. There are a few more thing I will try before I turn to the professionals.

I just finished a SKYPE conversation with Sam, whose birthday is tomorrow. Be sure to send him congratulations..............or condolences as he's not a kid anymore.


Friday, March 30, 2012

A Blog for Donna

There hasn't been too much to blog about since our return from Mexico. One week we took out #1 son and his family to Carrabba's in Clermont and the next week we took out #2 son and his family to Willies Fish House in Valrico. Mostly it's been a case of getting the house and grounds back to normal.

Yesterday Helen went i for cataract surgery and it went very well. This morning she went back to have the patch taken off and the results were better than expected. No complications and she can already see very well. The surgery for the other eye is being postponed until a later date as there is no real need to have it done right now.

I did get the parts for the repair of the slide awning and the process went much better than I would have thought. It was a bit difficult to slide the beaded edges in the channel, but I used some goop to lubricate the process. The goop is the stuff electricians use to pull wires through conduit. It's slimy and slippery, but it really works well.

When Donna and Sam visit from Missouri, I will have more to report, but until we leave for Massachusetts in June, there is not much worth mentioning around here. I may have to fake my blog and start writing fiction.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

I've fallen behind....and I can't catch up!

I have been really bad about keeping up with my blog. However, if you will hold on a minute, I have an excuse....sort of. Right now I'm working on my laptop because that's where all the vacation pictures reside. I did a speed test and found that I'm connected to the web at 9,830,000 bytes per second. At the end of my stay in Mexico, I was connected with a Movistar "Stick" at 1125 bytes per second. My connection was so slow that I would often just shut down the computer in disgust. Then I got further and further behind and catching up was a daunting task. It's 5:00AM and I can't sleep, so now I have no excuse. You are being warned up front that this will be long and I have forgotten many of the details already.

We stayed at Rancho La Mesa in the hills above Patzcuaro and enjoyed a magnificent view. Originally scheduled for a week, we stretched it to ten days and could have stayed longer.

There were a number of animals in the campground. Here we can see Patzcuaro in the background behind two horses. There was also a steer or young bull the difference being a minor surgical operation. At one point he was coming toward Sue and Tilly and started to get aggressive toward Tilly. We chased him (it?) away and had no more trouble.

Sunset showing all the campers at La Mesa. That's us on the left and Brian and Sue on the right. We had the campground to ourselves.

Patzcuaro at night. It was really beautiful and we could hear the celebrating all the way up in the hills. Patzcuaro is a very lively city as are most Mexican cities as they celebrate almost everything. They may not be the richest people in the world but they certainly seem happy and tend to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

One day we went to Santa Clara de Cobre, which seems to be the center of copper as an art form. We were amazed at the complex designs in the Copper Museum and it's hard to understand how these fine artisans can form such intricate patterns by just heating and beating copper.

Here we can see a young man making some progress on what will be a copper sink. In fact, we were able to see the whole process from heating and beating a block of copper to finishing the particular item. It is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive job. The artisans here are all brothers, I believe and this has been a family trade for many years.

Here Sue is having a lesson on being a copper smith. She was doing a very good job, but could she keep doing that hour after hour? I wonder how long I could do that before I threw the hammer at someone.

A few days later, Helen and I decided to go back to Santa Clara as Helen had seen some bracelets that caught her eye. About halfway there we encountered a road block.

Someone had placed rocks across the road to stop traffic. When I walked up to the line, I could see another row of rocks across the road several hundred feet ahead. There would be no visit to Santa Clara today.

The next day we tried again and again the road was blocked. This time truckloads of dirt were dumped where the rocks had been and I couldn't get as close to the line. We talked to a policeman in broken Spanglish and he ASSURED us that the road would be open tomorrow, so we decided to stay one more day.

On day three, the Federales were there! In addition to the rocks and dirt, people seemed to be barricading the road. Whoever was in control would not allow any vehicles to pass, however, one could walk across and that's what a number of people were doing. They would take a taxi or a small bus up to the roadblock, walk across to the other side, and then take a bus or taxi into Santa Clara. I was game. Another adventure!!! Helen wouldn't hear of it. I still think it would have been an interesting thing to enjoy and remember.

One day Helen and I took a boat ride over to Janitzio, which is not pronounced like you'd think. Right off the bat I was impressed with the boats and the captains. The boats were all the same, very long and very narrow and parked side by side back into the pier and only a foot apart. In the past I have been impressed at how some captains can control a single engine inboard, turning and backing in ways that seem impossible.

The ride over to the island was not too crowded. The ride was smooth and the captain competent. There was no talk about using life jackets or where they might be located. Young people were sitting on the stern and hanging over the water. It's not what you'd see in the US, but everyone was happy and having fun.

On the trip back, the boat was FULL. There was a group of musicians who played and sang for the passengers and passed a hat around. It did make the ride back seem a lot shorter.

This is Janitzio as we approach. You can already see that it's packed pretty tight.

Right off the dock you have a number of restaurants and curio shops. Souvenirs of every kind, but leaning toward religious paintings and relics.

There are two ways to the top, the express steps and the long road around the island. My knees would not consider the steps so we took a leisurely walk to the top. The homes are packed on on top of another, so on the right we could see the roofs of some homes and on the left was the wall holding up the house on the uphill side.

They're not making any more land on the island, so they make use of every inch.

NO RUNNING!!! Not that I could. There were places where one could easily break something. Especially someone like me who is looking at something other than where I'm walking. Fortunately, Helen watches where I'm walking and tells me to"step up", "step down", or "watch out".

And this is what's at the top, a statue of José Maria Morelos. This is as far as I want to go, but Helen chose to go inside and climb to the top.

Looking down at the entrance and base.

Here are just a few of the stairs that would ruin what I have left for knees.

A view of the area around the statue. It's actually a pretty park and I would think it's very populated on the weekend.

Part of the island, looking down from the "hand".

Back on the mainland, we stopped for lunch at this local restaurant right by the dock. I'm sorry that I don't recall the name, but I could find it again. The food was excellent and the service was also. If you look at the colorful dining room take note of the colorful table cloths. You MIGHT see some of the same combinations at our house.

We were wondering what everyone was selling in cups. From a short distance they looked like french fries. Nope, they are fish. These were not big fish but small frys.........get it? Everything that comes out of the lake is sold for food. I have seen largemouth bass in a fish store beside sunfish, carp, and other fish I did not recognize. The same is true of saltwater species. Anything that comes in on the net goes to the fish market.

Another day we returned to Patzcuaro in time to see a parade of school children and young couples. It was very colorful and festive and I could have put in a lot more pictures but....

Pretty senoritas on horseback.

Not a real Caballero yet?? It won't be long. He seemed to have good control of his horse where the young ladies had someone holding the reins.

OK, I couldn't resist this picture. Why this couple and not one of the other more decorated ones. Simple, I had tears in my eyes as I remembered my own 1960 Austin Healy Bug-eyed Sprite. Mine was powder blue but this green one was in A-one condition. Helen and I first dated when I had that Sprite.

After the parade we walked through the farmers market. All kinds of fruit and vegetables as well as just about anything you can think of. I bought a nice curved machete, made from a genuine truck spring.

If you're looking for fresh chicken....I mean REALLY fresh chicken, look no further.

Another day, we met Linda and Jurgen in the Grande Plaza to watch the "Danza de los Viejitos" or dance of the old men. At lunch time we went to Restaurant Lupita, where we dined with Brian and Sue. In fact, we always got the same table.

Jurgen on the left, then Linda, Helen, and Me.

These are the "old" men dancing. They are all in costume and wear old man masks, but they are hardly old men. The youngest was only six years old and his dancing was remarkable. They wear sandals with split wooden soles and they make a clacking sound. It's very animated and very interesting.

This is the six year old un-masked. He was a charmer but was occasionally distracted by young girls passing too close.

One of the last things we did was ride around Lake Patzcuaro. It was interesting and of course I got off the correct route a few times. Nest year I WILL have a Mexico chip in my GPS.

Beasts of burden. I wonder if there is a stick that will break a horse's back. These were certainly carrying a load.

In Tzintzuntzan, we discovered this convent while on the way to see the ruins of the area. A lot is being done to restore the convent, but much of the murals and other artwork are deteriorated to the point where they cannot be fixed. If those old Nuns could see that there is now electricity and running water.

These are the ruins of Tzintzuntzan. marking a period in history that predates the arrival of Columbus and other explorers to the "New World".

On the way around the lake we passed a section where there were a number of shops selling cast aluminum patio furniture. Since we had been looking at new patio furniture at home I thought it might be interesting to check out the local work. There were three of four shops and we checked them all. Helen found a set that she liked and we bought it. How do you get a cast aluminum table and four chairs in the Jeep? You don't. I drove back to the campground with the table and two chairs and returned for the last two. The only place to store the table was the Jeep, so the dogs no longer were going to go anywhere in the Jeep. With the table and two chairs secure in the Jeep with much padding, we had to put the other two chairs in the motorhome. One fit in the shower and the other rode in the bedroom.

It was getting to be time to head toward home and Helen was all set to head straight home. I mean straight home via the Talavera pottery of Dolores Hidalgo. We weighed anchor and headed north. Brian was good enough to give me directions for a new highway that exists on no maps, no GPS, and no Streets and Trips. It does exist and can be seen on Google Earth. It's a toll highway and toll are pretty steep in Mexico. However, the alternative "free" roads take you through places you don't want to go with a motorhome, maybe not even with just the Jeep. Brian told me about Guanajuato and I just didn't want to get involved with tunnels and such, so we went toward Querétaro instead. From there we took a ride to San Miguel de Allende and then on to Dolores Hidalgo. Helen bought some plates that she wanted and we headed back. I wanted to pass through San Miguel, but the streets were very narrow and the traffic was really crowded, so we headed back to the campground to find Brian and Sue waiting for us. We ate at the restaurant in front of the campground and enjoyed their company for the last time for awhile. In the morning we said our goodbyes and left.

The ride to the border was uneventful. We took the recommended route and had no problems what so ever in Mexico, spending the night in a well lit Pemex station. All the talk about trouble and such in Mexico and we just had an easy drive to the border. Things that had to be done were done quickly and efficiently. Then it all went to hell when we crossed into the US.

At US Customs there were two ways to go, one for cars and one for trucks. The motorhome wouldn't fit in a car lane so I followed the trucks. After waiting for the line to moveforward I finally got to the Customs booth, where we were told that the lane was only for the motorhome and the driver. Helen and the dogs would have to pass through the pedestrian line on the other side. I had to pull through the booth and make a u-turn, heading againstthe truck traffic until I could turn into the car lane. There I dropped off Helen and TWO dogs because three dogs would be too much. I coul dnot pass the motorhome through that lane so I had to make a U-turn and head against the auto traffic until I could turn back into the truck lane. After a while, I get back to the booth and I'm quickly processed through, except that I have to have the motorhome X-rayed. So now I get in line for the X-ray. I don't know how far back I am but I note that it takes five or siz=x minutes per truck.

Finally I get into the X-ray booth and a voice tells me to exit the motorhome and take my dog and hide behind the wall, away from the radiation. I do, and all is well. When it's over I go to get my peperwork and two gestapo come out and tell me they have to do a visual on the motorhome. I had to open all the basement doors and then let them inside the camper. They took a quick look, a very quick look into everything, under the sink, in the bathroom, freezer, refrigerator, cabinets, bedroom, then said it was OK. I got my papers to get released. Helen has now been waiting over an hour in the sun with Jodie and Coco. When I turn in my paperwork I asked how I could pick up my family and was told to pull ahead and turn left and follow that down to where my family is. When I do that, I find that I'm on one of the roads heading back to Mexico and it's one way!!! Helen came over with the dogs and got in the motorhome and she was not too happy. I'm looking at the situation and wondering how I'm going to get out of this when two guards or something approach me. I was not pleased when they told me that I should not have come that way even though I was directed to do so. There are traffic cones everywhere making lanes for cars and trucks. They decided to move a bunch of cones to all me to, get this, make yet ANOTHER U-turn heading north against the traffic heading to Mexico. This time there was some honking from some who were being held up. I finally got out of there, drove up th eroad a piece and pulled over. Helen would not drive the motorhome in Mexico. I stopped the engine and got out of the driver's seat and told Helen, "we're in the US, drive", and she did.

Getting to San Antonio we turned east on I-10 and peace returned to the world. Two days later we got home to all the azaleas in full bloom, three bathrooms, large beds, AAAAHHHHHH.