Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Survivor: Mexico


It was a dark and starry night as I drove beck from Mazatlan. Now how could that be???? The cardinal rule for tourists is to NEVER DRIVE AT NIGHT. The second rule is to never break the cardinal rule .What was I doing in unfamiliar territory on the wrong side of dusk. Let’s begin a few days earlier.

Saturday afternoon, November 12th, we were visited by Pat and Jeanette Boyd, a couple from Vancouver who would be traveling with us toward Mazatlan. They are an amiable couple and we were very pleased to meet them. We arranged a place to meet on the way to the border and that was that.

Sunday November 13th, we met at the appointed spot and headed south. The first, very minor problem occurred when I followed Pat down the car lane of US customs. I opened the window and the first thing I heard was “Houston, we have a problem”. It was then apparent that I would not be able to continue in the car lane, however, they opened up a small slot into the truck lane and I was able to pass through. The US customs people wanted to know how much money we carried and if we had any guns or ammunition. We were soon on our way.

At Mexican customs, Pat turned up a random red light which meant he had to stop to be searched. WE got no such light but were asked to pull aside anyway. Now, it was pitch black and the Mexican Federale was dress in black, head to toe, was armed, and wore a balaclava, one of those knit things that covered everything but the eyes. I thought a Ninja something was attacking. He came around to the door with a woman agent and she asked to come inside to check. Of course our dogs went nuts. Strangers to play with. The man asked if they were Labradors and when we said yes he seemed pleased. The inspection over, we continued on to the Immigration station.

The immigration/tourist permit is almost comical. First we went to one building to get our travel permits, then we had to go to the Banjercito (??) to pay for them. Then we had to go back to the permit building to get the papers for our car and motorhome permits. After that, we had to stop on the way to have some photocopies done. Then back to the Banjercito again to actually get the “import” papers for the Jeep and Motorhome. They also took $300.00 deposit on the Jeep so that if we leave the Jeep in Mexico, we lose the $300.00. OK, we knew that in advance so it was no problem. Next stop was to fill-up with fuel. I mentioned to Pat on Saturday that I would want to fill up within the first 100 miles of Mexico as the fuel is over $1.00 per gallon cheaper down there. Pat didn’t know that and he decided to enter Mexico with little fuel also.

WE were making very good time and after quite a while we stopped to water the dogs and change drivers. This is how it always goes. I drive miles and miles of highways, then Helen takes over and gets to drive through a big city rife with construction. The Boyds were unaware of the road work in Hermosillio, but their Tom Tom GPS took them through. I was very impressed because my Garmin GPS ended as we crossed the border. I could see the icon of my vehicle close in on a black void. I had no map, no speed, nothing! Soon, even the icon went away.

We were still making very good time and actually made it to our destination of Navajoa fairly early in the day. Pat and Jeanette stayed at the Best Western Hotel in Navajoa while we parked in the back of a Pemex truck stop about 2 miles north. They were going to come back for us at 7:00 AM. All was well for a while as we walked the dogs and made ready for the night. Trucks kept pulling in all night and soon we had a cattle truck on each side of us. Cattle trucks transport live cattle from one place to another and they do NOT stop to “walk” the cattle from time to time. Therefore, the stench is beyond belief!!!!! We were enclosed and there was not too much stink that we had to endure. I actually got to sleep and a short while later I got up to find the cattle trucks gone.

Still, trucks were coming in all night and when morning came we were boxed in. I had no choice but to disconnect the Jeep and move it away, then back the motorhome around to reconnect the Jeep. AS we pulled around the station Pat and Jeanette were waiting for us. Oh, how could I forget. It rained all night Sunday night and I mean it poured.

Our trip continued to be uneventful as we drove further south on route 15 D. Soon we were getting to where Helen and I would cut off, so we hailed the Boyds and stopped to say good bye. They were a great couple and we hope to cross paths again. They headed down 15D when we got off at about kilometer marker 84. The route to Celestino Resort is a dirt road that was graded only a few days ago, but, of course, that was before the rain. We were not happy about the muddy road and large puddles, but it wasn’t until we got right in front of the hamlet Rosendo Nieblas (Rosy Fog). This area of road was sloped very heavily to the right and the surface contained some clay that made it slippery to the extreme. The whole motorhome just slid to the right and bounced into the embankment. A little damage to the front right corner and much damage to the right rear corner. I was afraid that it would take out the heat pump / air conditioner, but it was spared. It did rip off part of the lower rear cap.

Here is Jesus. He is just one on many adults and children who were available to help push the motorhome.

There was nothing we could do. I checked with my road service for help. Last week a checked for the second time and they assured me that I was covered. They even told me how to call from Mexico. So I called, and they told me sorry, but no coverage. One of the guys staying at Celestino knows a guy who knows a guy, but he wouldn’t come because the possibility of doing more damage was too great. The locals finally got a farmer with his rusty old tractor. Connected to the trailer hitch, we had Helen driving in reverse as the tractor pulled us out of the mud and down the street to a secondary road where we have been camped since Monday afternoon.

Of course we are the celebrities in this hamlet of 116 people. All the kids have been coming around and we find them to be most delightful and polite. The man who owns the house behind us works for Celestino and is a real gentleman. He and his son washed all the clay off the motorhome and would not take any money. I needed to call the insurance company, but have no phone that works here. I was running on adrenalin and little else.

And that’s what got me to Mazatlan, but the fun isn’t over yet. AS I was leaving Helen asked me to take some money, as in pesos. I refused, knowing that I was heading for Wal-Mart to buy a phone for me and beer for our new friend Teo. Recklessly, at dusk, I headed for Mazatlan on RT. 15D, the toll road, the toll road that doesn’t take US or Canadian money. I was able to get by using my credit card. Next stop was a Pemex station ti fill up with gas. No problem! I pull up and tell the attendant to fill it up. It comes to 505 pesos and I hand him my Master card. He shows me a sign that says NO CREDIT CARDS. No problem, he can take dollars. How much is 505 pesos…..just about $44.00. Great, except I only have $31.00 in my wallet. They have an ATM at the station but that was broken. He finally let me go, taking the $31.00 and my wrist watch, giving me directions to another ATM. I returned with the money and got my watch.

In Wal-Mart, I had no problem getting some cuervesa (beer) for my friend. Getting a phone was something else. I was dealing with people who spoke no English and they we dealing with a person who only knew how to ask where there was a bathroom. Sometime later on I left with a phone that they claimed was ready to use, only it was blocked. I eventually got it programmed in English and found that it was “Blocked” until you press the * key long enough to work. This keeps the phone from actgivating in a purse or pocket.

Heading back up highway 15 with pesos for the toll everything is good until I pass through the tool booth where a group of Federales stop me. One asks me in plain English if the car is mine and I tell him yes. He says prove it! I showed him my drivers license, but that was not enough. I pointed to the importation sticker on the windshield and he asks where the rest of the form is. I couldn’t find it. Finally I got the registration out of the glove compartment and the registration and my license agreed so he let me go.

Next I have to find an exit around km 74. these are not ramps like in the states, these are dirt trails that wander off the highway and SOMETIMES wind around to a bridge. My luck was getting better as I found the right path on the first try and was soon back with Helen and the three dogs. Phew!!!!

Now it's Tuesday 11/22/11. The past three days have been hectic around these parts as the natives celebrate "Revolution Day". Three days of parades and running amok. I REALLY hope to have internet capability later today, REALLY. It's just that "manana" doesn't really mean "tomorrow", it refers to some time off in the future.

More later.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We're on our way!

We are heading to our meeting place in Nogales, Arizona. I'm writing this blog, but it's without pictures because I'm having problems with my HP laptop. The old Dell has been resurrected and is now doing all the work. Unfortunately, I can't download pictures to this Dell and I cannot access the internet with the HP. It started a few days ago when a friend recommended a book to me. I went on line to check out Amazon.com and was hijacked to another website. I tried several times before I got through to Amazon. Then I Googled "hijack killer" and downloaded a trial version of a hijack remover. When I ran the program it supposedly found and removed three hijack malware.
That solved the problem for a day, but the next day the problem returned. In addition, I cannot access wifi with the HP. Tomorrow we will be passing through Tucson and I found a Best Buy just one road off our chosen route. That's only about 25 miles from where we will be spending the next few days, so if I have to leave it for a day or two I can.

The first day of travel we made it to Alabama. Day 2 brought us almost to Houston. Day 3 found us in Ozona, Texas. Day 4 got us out of Texas and all the way to Deming, NM.

The ride has been uneventful so far except for a couple of glitzes with my tire pressure monitoring system. One day I got an alarm on one of the Jeep tires. It was odd because it was in alarm but it showed a pressure above the cold pressure. I removed the sensor and checked the air pressure and it was OK. The next day I put the sensor back and it has been working well ever since. This morning I had an alarm on the right rear outer tire on the motorhome. It showed a pressure well below the cold pressure, so I thought I might have picked up a nail. I took the sensor off and checked the pressure. It was at the proper pressure. After an hour or so, I put the sensor back on and it worked OK the rest of the day. I have call into Pressure Pro and I have to call customer support tomorrow.

Last night we got a terrible hail storm. It woke me up with the sound of gravel being dumped on the roof. I was positive it was hail and I wanted to get up and shine a flashlight out to see how big the hail was as there was a report on the Weather Channel that mentioned baseball sized hail in the same storm system, but over Oklahoma. I was too cozy in bed and just rolled over and went back to sleep. I'm looking forward to turning south and heading for Mexico. Here in Deming, NM, it is expected to be as low as 27 degrees. I already put the heat pump on. I did the same last night only Helen came behind me and turned the control to A/C. I'll check the control again before I turn in.

The dogs are behaving....to some extent. Sandy is keeping out of Jodie's way. Coco still sticks her nose into everything and will bark at anything strange that she sees. If I see a dog first, I am a bit prepared. If I don't her sudden, full voice bark scares the heck out of me. Helen tries to quiet her, but she ALWAYS gets in at least one last woof.

More later.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shakedown Cruise

We finally had the motorhome out for the first time in nearly a year. I don't ever want to go that long between trips again. Over the weekend, we drove to Florida's east coast to Palm Bay, where my brother, Rick, has a house. He comes down with some of his family and we get to see him for a few days.

WE decided to take them to dinner at "The Shack", a seafood restaurant right on the inter-coastal waterway. It was my and Helen's 44th wedding anniversary, so Ricky INSISTED on treating. However, I was his guest in Massachusetts for a week in August and I was treated like a king. The meals Rick's wife, Linda, and daughter, Tammy, cooked were awesome. I wanted to take Rick and Linda out for dinner but Rick was always working except for some of the nights that I was at my reunion. At any rate, Helen and I wanted to treat. We got to the restaurant before Rick and Linda. I made it amply clear to our waitress that I was to get the check. Rick balked, but I had my way. They more than made up for it with meatloaf one night and lasagna and eggplant Parmesan the next. Linda is quite the cook.

Rick has his usual run of luck working around the house. His irrigation system failed when the motor seized. He tried the breaker while I watched. In a few seconds there was smoke coming from the motor and it smelled like the windings got fried. We went to Lowe's and bought a replacement. When Helen and I returned for dinner the next night, Rick had just completed the installation of the new pump. He had the outside switch off and went inside to close the breaker. When he flipped the outside switch there was a sudden POP and then nothing. Rick and I both thought he ruined the motor somehow. Rick took off the back cover of the motor and found a wire broken. We cannot understand how it happened unless there was a fault in the wire, as the break was in a new piece of #10 wire and was not near a connection. Rick replaced the wire and we tried again. The pump started right up and water sprayed everywhere as the diversion valve had cracked. This is my one brother, so he is also the one who gets towed in about half the time he takes his boat out.

Helen is one of those women who never complains. How are you doing Helen? Fine. Well, Linda asked her how her new glasses were working out and Helen told her that she was again having a difficult time reading text on the TV. That was a shock to me as she said nothing. I could not see going to Mexico if she was developing a problem. Monday morning, first thing, I called our eye doctor and was able to get her an appointment for first thing Tuesday morning. We were soon headed home. As it turns out, the problem is cataracts. They are growing and will require attention in the future. New glasses will do her no good and the choice is hers. She is putting off making a decision until after Mexico.

The shakedown cruise brought our attention to two problems. The first one showed up when I connected the Jeep. I bought a brand new cable to run from the motorhome to the Jeep, activating the lights. With no lights on anything, I connected the cable and the Jeep brake lights went on. With Helen in the motorhome, I found that we had right and left directional lights and running lights, but no brake lights. The second problem is that the refrigerator will not run on LP gas.

With Helen's assistance again, I was able to find that the positive 12 v wire and the brake wire were crossed. I switched than around and all works well. The last harness worked perfectly and I can't believe that an off the shelf item would be defective.

The refrigerator problem was something else. I saw an article on Kevin and Ruth's blog about cleaning the burner, but my unit seemed much more complicated and had more insulation and wires due to two recent Norcold recalls. I contacted a local company authorized to do warranty work on Norcold. There was a great abundance of rust, but the burner itself had to be replaced as well as the ignighter. It was a bit more than I thought it should be, but now we are READY!!!! I hope!

Tomorrow morning I get my last hepatitis A & B shot. Friday morning the dogs visit the vet to get their health certificate and Saturday.........we.........are.......off!!!!!!! The caravan to Celestino Resort never came to be. We will be meeting a couple from Canada in Nogales on the 12th and make the crossing early on the 13th. I sure hope all goes well.

Later. Oh...wait....Pictures!

My brother Rick!

Rick's wife, Linda, with Mya

My nephew, Todd.

Two hackers making a bad situation worse!

Now, Later.