Saturday, December 24, 2011


And me gonna get worse, I'm afraid. We have been very busy here at Hacienda Contreras and are having a grand time. We signed up for one week, but we've extended for a month. It may be a lot cooler than I wanted in Mexico, but the area and people are so nice that it's hard to leave.

One day Helen and I went to Mazamitla, one of Mexico's "Magical Cities". It's a very old city built around a cathedral and plaza. The streets are paved with cobblestone and they are narrow to the extreme. They can be narrow and still be two way streets, but it doesn't really matter because this is Mexico and some people won't hesitate to drive the wrong way if it's where they want to go.

This is a typical street in Mazamitla. One of our fellow campers made the mistake of driving his motorhome here a few years ago. With very narrow streets, curbs that are sometimes 18 inches high, and low overhangs jutting out from buildings, he was lucky to get out. Of course he had the help of the police who guided him and had a number of people move their cars.

This is the center of Mazamitla culture and city. All around the plaza there are numerous shops selling just about anything you might need. I did look at a nice leather jacket, but thought it foolish to have in such a warm climate. A few days later I would have liked to have it on.

Across the street from the cathedral is the Alpine Restaurant where Helena and I stopped for lunch. Now Helen and I are not great lovers of Mexican food, or at least we haven't been, so we were very careful about what we ordered. Nothing hot, as in spicy hot. The hostess gave us a lot of time and allowed us to sample some dish to see if we'd like it. We settled on two orders of mixed grill fajitas. They were delicious.

Another night Barb Contreras, camp owner, put on one heck of a meal for all the campers. There were shrimp, cooked five different ways, and all of them excellent. That alone made it a feast for me, but there was also lamb, chourizo, (Spelling is probably wrong), steak, and several Mexican dishes. I mentioned that Helen and I were not into Mexican food, but we find that there is a world of difference between what we have here and what is available at Taco Bell. We have been told that before but didn't quite believe it.

Last night the whole group of us went up to a restaurant right on the square, or plaza in Valle de Juarez. Everyone ordered the specialty, chicken enchiladas and we were not disappointed. Only after we were done did Barb thank us for sharing her and Sal's 39th anniversary. When we gathered at the campground I thought Barb looked all spiffed up for just a night with the crowd, but I didn't realize the true meaning of the evening to her.

Today the ladies have been up in the kitchen getting tamales ready for tonight. Earlier they were making something else that I would only destroy if I tried to spell it. Suffice to say it was another traditional Mexican dish that was exceptional. Sal's mother, Dona Theresa, was the focal point for making the early dish as well as having all the ladies, Helen included, keep busy making the tamales. Helen said that from now on we'll be having Tamales for Christmas instead of lasagna. Could that really happen???? I like the Mexican food, but I am Italian and lasagna is..........

There could have been and should have been more pictures, but for some reason we got some poor results with the little camera. For really good pictures and commentary, see Kevin and Ruths Adventures.

I will try to be better, but it's so easy to rely on Kevin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leaving the Beach Behind

Sunday the 18th came and it was time to say goodbye to our friends in Celestino RV Park. It was another perfect day with plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures. We were away by 8:45 AM, which was better than I expected. The highway to Mazatlan was no surprise as we drove it numerous times. Bill, at Celestino advised us that once clear of Mazatlan, it would be clear and fast driving. Apparently Mazatlan covers a lot more area than we thought.

We noticed a great amount of traffic on the road. Cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs crammed full of goodies or with a heck of a load tied on top. Almost all of the license plates were from California and at first I foolishly thought that a lot of Californians were heading to Mexico for the winter. It finally dawned on me that this was the Sunday before Christmas and these were people heading HOME for the holidays. There were dozens of bicycles and large toys. One pickup was carrying two Carrier A/C crates. Another was taking a side-by-side refrigerator home for Christmas. Consequently, all the toll booths were backed up and the rest areas just beyond were filled to capacity.

The picture above shows some of the traffic. It also shows an older man riding his bike on the breakdown lane. We have also seen truck driving in that lane, but against traffic!

This picture shows another section of the toll road. Mexican toll roads differ from American toll roads in several respects. The tolls are very high, but they include insurance, so if your vehicle is damaged on the highway, their insurance will have it fixed. Their toll roads are not limited access. If you drive the full length you will pay all the tolls, but you can drive sections all the time without paying a toll. This was the situation when we drove to La Cruz, no tolls. Finally, you may see anything on the toll road, pedestrian, bicycle, tractor, even a herd of cattle being driven across.

Helen caught this picture of a man fly fishing in one of the rivers we passed. It got my attention. Later on, I found that in the higher elevations there is trout fishing and there is a trout hatchery someplace around Mazamitla.

This is a picture of the sun dipping behind the mountains. What it means is that at this time I am already in trouble for driving too long. We really meant to be stopped someplace safe before dark, but one minor set back after another put us way behind. I was always sure that we just had a little way to go. What a laugh!!! The direction system on Streets and Trips is an illusion. At one point it told me to take the next ramp to Route 15, and when I did it announced that I was "off route". Helen was really pleased.

I continued to drive, not seeing any alternative that was agreeable to me. In the meantime, Helen was getting more and more stressed. We couldn't safely stop anywhere and we could barely continue to drive safely either. Compounding this problem is the fact that Helen's cataracts are getting bad and her vision is decreasing, especially at night. While I could see well enough to drive, Helen couldn't make out very much in front of the motorhome. Then it started to rain. I finally asked Helen to go back and put her head down as she was really starting to distract me. She did, and it was a good thing, too. We were in the mountains at this point where there was one peligrosso (dangerous) curve after another. On some of the curves I could look way down at the village waaaayyyyy down in the valley. It's better that Helen never saw that.

I approached an unmarked intersection and was almost hit by a pickup truck coming very fast from the right. Jamming the brakes was the best thing I could do, though I felt that a collision was unavoidable. Miraculously, the pickup swerved and missed us by inches. This is where I was supposed to turn left anyway. I made the turn and pulled off the road for a few minuted to collect myself. If I was correct, I'd be about five miles from the campground. This was all paved road, but it has to be the worst paved road on the continent, perhaps two continents. I paused to cll the folks at Hacienda Contreras and they said they would meet us at the campground. A caretaker would let us in the gate. I knew that the entrance to the campground was an orange arch, and I was SO RELIEVED to see it just a few minutes later.

This is the arch in the daytime, but it looked so much better Sunday night.

The gate was unlocked and we entered safe and sound for the night. Barb and Sal came to greet us and they are a rare pair. We couldn't have had a better welcome and certainly felt right at home from the first moment. We picked a spot and settled in for the night.

This is the Dogs play area. Acres of clear land and grass surrounded by high rock fences, you would think that it would please them, but such is not the case. we are about in the middle of the property and they can run off-leash down here. It captured their full attention for a few days, but today it was not enough. Sandy has never been to training, but she behaves well. Jodie and Coco are another matter. This afternoon they worked their way down to the far left corner, then worked their way over to the far right corner. Of course, they were off leash, but I was with them. Then they got to the right wall and moved with some speed along the wall, heading for the area where there were campers in residence. Neither one would respond to being called and that really got my blood boiling. They would give me a quick look and continue on their way. I couldn't chase them for they were much too fast and determined not to come when called. I got Sandy in the camper and got in the Jeep for pursuit.

When I opened the back of the Jeep they jumped right in and I took them back to the camper. Sadly, they had been into the compost being used around the plants and they breaths that smelled a lot like the manure of the cows next door. The short ride back to the camper had my eyes watering. I could not bring them right in the motorhome as they smelled so bad, so I tied them to trees near us and hoped their breath would improve with time.

There has been a lot more going on, but I'll have to continue another day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blogging the Ides of December

I took the HP laptop to a computer repair in LaCruz. One recommended by Marilyn next door. There was a language barrier between us until I used a computer to access Google Translate. I typed in English and it converted to Spanish. The repairman typed in Spanish and I could read it in English. If nothing else, he was impressed with this use of the computer. He assured me that he would get right to it and it would be an hour. OK. I went next door to the Cyber cafe and used the computer there for an hour to check a lot of garbage and when I returned, he looked at the computer screen and indicated that it was not ready yet. I noticed that he was using Kaspersey to clean up my problem. Then I took a long walk about La Cruz and saw some interesting things. Returning to the shop, the repair guy brought me around back to look at the screen again. In over two hours it had only gone 30% of the way through my drive. He made a comment about grande drive and I said I'd be back manana.

This morning I picked up the computer and all the virus/trojan/malware was gone. However, A necessary file for my internet connection was still missing. One of the problems I had erased the file. Thinking of it now, I only had to delete the Moviestar program and reload with the stick. Instead, I found the file on the other computer and moved it across on a thumb drive. Success.

Now, on to the repair of the motorhome. The first picture shows the RV plumb up against the side of the road. Looking carefully, you can see that the rear cap has been pulled back about two feet.

The next picture shows the damage up close. The panel covering the central air and heat pump is bent way in, and at this point, I thought it was just the fiberglass that was damaged.

The picture below shows the heat pump with the panel and rear cap installed. It looks OK here, but the lower rear corner has actually been bent in about two inches. I didn't realize that until the cap was returned and installed. About a half hour with the jack from the Jeep and a prybar and it was close enough;

This is the rear without the cap, of course.

Here's a side view with the work completed. I am thrilled!!

Rear with the work done. I had to pay extra to have the heat pump panel done a second time, but the total cost was about $350.00 US dollars. Anyone care to guess how much that would be in Tampa???

On Monday Helen and I took a drive to the little town of Cosala, up in the mountains of eastern Sinaloa state. It waas the capital of Sinaloa/Sonora for a short time around 1826 when the regional governor decreed such as the capital it was replacing was being besieged by some enemy. The ride up was most interesting. We passed this herd of cattle, but it was not the last cattle we had to avoid.

Helen snapped this picture as we approached a small village. As we drew closed, we could see a number of young men inside playing video games. In fact, when I stop at a cyber cafe to use a computer, there is usually a good group of young men playing the interactive video games.

Bougainvilleas grow everywhere in abundance. Some are cultured and some grow wild. They flourish everywhere except the Tempesta property in Florida. That's where several plants have gone to die.

The gate to the "Magic City" of Cosala.

Beyond the gate, this is the entrance. You can see that there is no way it supports two way traffic. All the streets in Cosala are two way, even when only one car could possible fit.

The wide "streets" are for pedestrians only, and are lined with businesses or apartments.

This is Helen in her new haircut. The general consensus (except for Helen) is that she looks great in the "new sassy cut".

The Cathedral is the centerpiece of every small town. This one was all decked out as was the whole town to celebrate the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe. There was a lot going on during the day, but the real festival is at night. We met a young woman, born in Texas of Mexican parents who has returned to Cosala. She was telling us how at night the who area around the Cathedral and square are full of candles. We found quite a number of candles still burning from the night before. With the beautiful flowers and the vivid colors it would have to be an incredible sight.

A view into one of the numerous valleys that we passed.

More cattle!!! This is the reason we are told not to drive at night. It's not about bandits or bad roads, but cattle roaming free where ever you go. The only exception is the Maripista or toll road system. They are fenced with cattle gates to keep cattle from access to the highway.

Elden, a Canadian who is camped closest to the beach, rode up the campground like Paul Revere, telling all that the turtles were being released. There is a turtle sanctuary up the beach a ways where they dig up and protect sea turtle eggs. After they hatch, they are placed near the surf and allowed to swim away. The "ranger" came to our campground to let them go. Having people around keeps the gulls and frigate birds from snatching them before they reach the water.

When they're placed on the sand, the immediately head for the water.

This one made it to the water only to be washed back.

This little fell was washed back and left upside down, an easy meal for a scavenger.

The campers fell in and took the turtles out to deeper water and let them go as the wave receded. That worked. We waited around for awhile making sure that none of them washed back. We were successful and delighted to be a part of this process.

Here is a typical sunset.

Here's another. Day after day, the same moderate temperatures and glorious sunsets. Enough is enough and well have to move inland to get away.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A great few days....almost

We've been having the same fine weather day after day. The guys fixing the motorhome panel did not come through on Saturday as they said. I was up in La Cruz to see them early Sunday morning and they promised that they would deliver it in the afternoon. They showed up sooner than I expected and we mounted the panel. It looks great. I have before and after pictures that I'd like to post when I'm able.

Yesterday, Helen and I drove up to Cosala, a small town in the Sierra Madres with a big heritage. It used to be the territory capital when Sonora and Sinaloa were one state. It is a very compact city with very narrow roads. The interesting thing is that even when there is only room for one car, it's still a two way street. The ride up there was awesome on the twisting mountain roads and I told Helen it would be a lot more fun in a Miata or on a motorcycle. I changed my mind on the return trip. The ride up was hugging the mountains. The ride back was hugging the edge. A 5 inch curb would hardly keep anyone from going over the edge.

This morning we were notified that the Turtle Sanctuary would be releasing baby turtles right in front of the campground. The guy from the sanctuary had about 25 little turtles in a box and let us help them along. The moment they hit the sand they sped for the water. It was near high tide and a wave would come along and wash them away. The next wave would deposit them back on the sand, many upside down. Then we would gather them back and walk them into the water, releasing them as another big wave receded. In short order they were all gone. Helen and I stayed with another camper for a few minutes to make sure that none were washed back.

This blog is being done on my old Dell computer. The HP is out again. This morning I was checking my email and found several Christmas E cards. When I clicked on one I got a message that something very bad was in the file. I deleted it, but I was too late. Another miserable malware!!!!!!!!

I will do this blog again when the other computer is well again.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Yes sir eee!!! Another glorious day in Mexico. The weather has been perfect, cool nights and warm days. We have had the windows open continually for weeks. The dogs have a great time at the beach and..........the dogs have a great time at the beach. I noticed that the fish stores down here sell snook, and excellent fish that is a game fish in Florida. There are closed seasons and size limits in Florida. Here, they are just another fish. On the east coast of Florida they often fish for snook in the surf as night falls and I figured that I'd give it a try. I brought a surf rod that I bought a few years ago specifically to snook fish with my brother, but never got to use it. A few nights ago I set it up and took a few lures down to the beach at dusk. I cast and cast until my arms could take no more. Unfortunately, that was only about ten or twelve casts. I can remember casting all night for striped bass and bluefish on Cape Cod and it was only....let me see.....oh.....more than 30 years ago. That's when I was in my thirties and didn't have arthritis in my elbow and shoulder. Damn!!! I'm going to have to stick with my smaller fishing rods or go to (ugh) bait fishing where I cast once and let the fish come to the bait.

I'm still waiting for the last panel to be replaced on the motorhome. I was told earlier in the week that they would come Saturday afternoon at cinco to install it. Of course they did not show. I drove up to their shop in La Cruz to prod them into action. They were working on it and assured me that they would have it back this afternoon. The stereotype of the lazy Mexican doesn't apply around here. These guys are working seven days a week and have a lot of work to do, thanks to the crazy/aggressive Mexican drivers. When I get the body work completed I will post before and after pictures.

When I said "another day in paradise", I was being a bit sarcastic. The weather is beautiful, but we have been warned that it will soon turn cold here and most everyone we've seen in the park will be heading south soon. A week from today we will pull up the anchor and travel about 400 miles to Hacienda Contrera, where we will spend some time and get to meet Kevin and Ruth. We've heard from the owners and understand that they have a large fenced area for the dogs, so Helen and I will be able to get away for a day. It has been difficult to see very much beyond the campground and beach when the dogs require so much care. We walk them and feed them and walk them again. Then we can get to Mazatlan for a few hours. From the campground we can visit Mazatlan and La Cruz, a small inland community, but there is not really a lot to see or do around here. Besides that, Helen and I are more nomadic, RARELY staying in one place for more than a week. We will give more thought to campgrounds with more day trip options.

So after three weeks at Celestino RV Resort, we are more than ready to move on. We have met some extremely nice and interesting people and we've had our adventure in the mud. Now to head east and south, over hills and around bends to another adventure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Monday, Helen and I took another trip to Mazatlan and this time we got it right. A few weeks ago we took an unplanned trip down and arrived right in the middle of Revolution Weekend. It was a mess for me as the traffic was terrible and the stress level was very high. We did some quick shopping and went home. On our second trip we did a little better, but not by much. It was very stressful for me and I didn't enjoy the trip. At the MEGA store, I had to sit down and rest for a while with a cup of cappuccino frio. It was delicious and I was feeling better in a short time.

By Monday we knew our way around a bit. I was able to find Route 15 going through the city. It's the route we'll take when we leave here on the 18th. Our first stop was Wal-Mart because the first item of business was to purchase a new printer. I looked at all the models and converted all the prices from pesos to dollars and after considerable thought, I bout an Epson, which was the cheapest one they had. I've had Epsons before and have always been happy. We also got some non-perishables before we drove to Old Town. As we drove along the Malecon, the walk along the beach, we could see the high tower hill in the distance and decided that we would try to drive there and get some good pictures of the city. It was not as easy as it looked and I took more than a wrong turns before we got to the top, or as close to the top as we could.

Here are a few pictures of Mazatlan

After taking the pictures we ventured down to Old Town and I found a parking space not far from the Cathedral. Helen and I had a little disagreement about where the market was. I have a knack for knowing directions, but this time shopping was involved and Helen was correct. Below are few pictures inside the market.

We bought our Mazatlan Tee shirts and headed for a pastry shop that we had heard about and also Helen spied it as we were driving by. After buying too many pastries (one would have been too many) we headed back to the car, but not before stopping to buy some Christmas lights for the camper. There are a lot of people around Old Town and so many people are trying to earn a living. We never felt unsafe, even for a moment. Shopping in Tampa or Orlando is more of a hassle for us. Not speaking Spanish could be a real problem, but the Mexican people are so eager to please, and not just when money is involved. If you are looking for something someone will often go with you to show you the way'

The last stop was MEGA, a small scale Wal-Mart, but with the Anglo in mind. Signs are printed in Spanish and English. Several employees speak English well enough to be a real help. They have products that you can't get elsewhere, even at Wal-Mart, like real Cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, Virginia baked ham, and more. Surprising to me was the display of fresh Christmas Trees. We may be well into Mexico, but the smell of spruce, pine, and balsam bring memories of Christmas in New England. The trees were selling for about $27.00 USD, and that's not too bad.

We bought another cooler to transport our milk, lunch meat, and fish home. Helen bought a few nice fillets of white fish. I couldn't pass up the chance at some fresh shrimp. We packed up and headed home. We were too tired to prepare a real supper, so we picked on goodies and turned in early. It was another very fine day.