Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 12, 2010--Another update from Mexico

Hi Everybody, As I’m writing this it’s raining. It’s actually been cold all week, and there have been a couple of times I’ve had the windows closed. It’s cold now, but I have the door open--windows are closed, and the A/C vent only is on, so cool air is coming in from outside, so I can’t really complain about the cold, can I?

Last week I took a big meal to my landlady, a big pot of fifteen bean mix with ham vegetable soup, corn cakes, fried potatoes and cole slaw. I took a gallon of Arizona tea, and apricot pecan tassies (they’re sort of like little tarts), a big tray of banana/walnut muffins and half a watermelon. I asked her to invite her parents to come down for the meal. They live about four or five miles away. I’ve met her mother, and because I’m always taking food to her daughter and family, she made the nicest tortilla warmer for me. She had her daughter bring it to me a couple of weeks ago, so I thought it would be a treat to invite her mom and dad for a meal that I prepared. I can’t have them back here in the RV--there’s six of them, plus her mom and dad. So, I loaded up the car and took all the food to her, at her house in the front of the RV park. The tortilla warmer is a terry-lined, double circle the size of about an eight inch tortilla, with a slit along half of the circle. She embroidered the top with a little bunny rabbit, a jalapeno pepper, and the words “Mennonite Park, Mexico. That’s the official name of this RV park I’m in, so it’s a practical gift that I’ll use a lot, and also a souvenir. My landlady, Christine Loewen (I call her Christy) has seven brothers, and she’s the only girl. I’ve met one of her brothers. He’s the one who fixed the air conditioner in my car, and he’s looking for a strut to hold up the hood (I’ve been having to prop it up, since the strut is broken), a radio antenna, and a plastic finiish plate that fits over the top part of my dash, under the windshield. I have it covered with a dash cover now, but before I got the cover it had become dried out and brittle from the Arizona sun. The first time I came here to Mexico, in February of 2009, I hit a bump going about 35 or 40 miles an hour and the impact popped and cracked the whole front of the dash. It flew up all over the front of the car in little and some big pieces. Anyway, he’s watching for parts in junkyards, as he looks for things he needs for cars he’s fixing. He says he has a list of things he just keeps looking for, until he finds them and that eventually he almost always finds what he’s looking for . He’s so reasonable--he only charged me $200 U.S., for fixing my air conditioner, which covered the compressor, plus labor. He also fixed a couple of other things at the same time.

My landlord and his boys mowed the whole park today, and it looks so nice. And they’re always bringing me things. Last night about eight o’clock, just when it was starting to get dark, my landlord and three of his kids showed up outside, and called to me. They’d walked back from their house. They had two sandwiches and a big jar of vegetable soup, and it was so good. I ate the sandwiches and half the soup, so I still have another serving of soup left. She makes fresh bread, small round whole wheat rolls, about every two weeks, and several times she’s sent the kids back with seven or eight of them for me. They’re so good split and toasted, with butter.

I really feel at home here now. I still don’t have television, but I read a lot, so I don’t miss it, and the dogs keep me company. I want to sell my property in Arizona when real estate starts moving again, and build a place down here. I told my landlord I want to do that and asked him about buying land around here. He said he knows an honest, reliable realtor who would help me do it, and I’d be sure to have an attorney and a title company involved.
I have a guy in Arizona who does all my maintenance in Tombstone, who is single and just does construction work or handyman jobs, as he can find it. He stays busy all the time. He speaks fluent Spanish, and can do anything on a building, even wiring, plumbing, dry walling, roofing, etc. He just doesn’t have a contractor’s license, so he works on construction crews and picks up odd jobs. I’m going to see if he would come down here for two or three months--whatever it took, and run a construction crew for me. He could negotiate for materials, hire subcontractors, and supervise all the work. I can let him hire day laborers, or a permanent crew, which would be preferable for the time they worked on my property. He’s pleasant and I know he’d never cheat me. In fact, I’d pay him according to how much money he could save me. When he works for me in Tombstone, he just lets me pay him what I want. I always try to be fair and he’s always been happy with what I pay, so we have a good working arrangement.

I’ll also see an immigration lawyer first, before I build, and see if there are any advantages gained by applying for permanent residency. A lot of American’s and Canadians own homes, and businesses, in Mexico, and have for years, so I know it’s just a matter of making sure I do everything legally. I haven’t mentioned it to my landlord yet, but I might even talk with him about building right here in his RV park, at the back of the park, where my RV is parked now. I’d like to stay right here, because his family lives in the park, and they lock it every night at sundown, then open it about seven every morning, so it would be very safe, especially when I was visiting in the states. If I ever come in after the park is locked, all I do is honk and they open the gate with a remote, right from their house. I don’t know if they’d be willing to let me build on the property, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. They’ probably be able to get another remote for the gate, and just let me keep it. I’d like to build back here, right by this little lake. It’s so private here, with a beautiful view of the mountains, and it’s out away from town. Also, it’s on a main highway. I could save a lot of money by doing that, because I wouldn’t have to develop a lot. I’d be able to tie into his big septic system. I wouldn’t have to have any driveways or roads into the property, I wouldn’t need to fence it, except maybe just a fenced area for the dogs, and I’d have access to water, electricity, etc. All I’d need is separate meters. I don’t know if he’d be receptive to the idea or not, but they really do like me and I love his family. The most RV’s he’s ever had in here was last January, just before I left to go back to Arizona, when he had 21. It was a caravan and they were just here two nights. There have been a couple of times when he had one or two RVs just overnight, and a couple of times when two would come in together, but that’s it. He said he used to, up until three or four years ago, have twenty or thirty caravans in here every year, with as many as thirty RVs, but with the cost of gasoline and drug wars in some of the bigger border towns, people just aren’t coming to Mexico on vacations from the states, the way they used to. There are actually more people moving down here right now, than ever before though, because there are no restrictions against foreigners owning property and many people come down to spend part of each year. But there are more and more people retiring here, because everything is so affordable.

When I build my house, I’m planning to build a nice one-bedroom apartment at one end of it, so I can rent that out to cover the cost of my own utilities and maintenance, so I’ll be living here for nothing, once I buy the lot and build the house. I’d pay cash for all that, of course. I don’t ever intend to go in debt again. And, if I have enough money left over, I’d like to open a detail shop, and car wash right here on the road where I live now. There are more people with nice cars and big trucks down here than I’ve seen in Arizona and I know I could earn a good income from it. I could probably get my landlord’s son to run it for me. He’s eighteen now, and a really good worker.

I’d keep my RV, of course, and use it or the car to travel back and forth to the U.S. anytime I wanted to, or anywhere else I decided to travel. I’d like to see some more of Mexico, and maybe even drive down into Central America, if I could find someone to go with me. It has a good engine in it now, with only about 60,000 miles on it. When my two big dogs pass on, I’ll be able to travel and take the small ones with me. Also, two of my small dogs won’t live much longer either. I have one small dog, the little black one, that I found in an RV park in Belen, New Mexico in May of 1997 and he was at least two to four years old then, so he’s got to be close to fifteen, and I have another small dog, Scout, the one that ran off down here last year, that was born on my birthday in 1999, so he’s over eleven years old, and I’ve never had a dog that lived past fourteen years old, except for the little black one I have now. I’ve had my two big dogs since spring of 2000, so they’re both over eleven or twelve years old. I would never have been without them for anything, but they have made it hard to do any traveling. When all I have is the little multi-colored dog, Dozer, that Mike, my nephew gave me in 1995, I can easily travel. He’s house broken and well behaved, born in May of 1995.

It’s still raining and eight-thirty on a Saturday night. I just closed up the RV. It was getting too cold. We haven’t had much rain so far this rainy season, which started about the middle of June. It was hot the first month I got here this year. Actually, my landlord says the only time of year it is ever hot is for a month or so, usually from the first of May until the rainy season starts, so only about a month and a half. The rest of the time, the climate is nearer to being perfect than anyplace I’ve ever lived. I used to have problems with my skin cracking and fingernails breaking, in Arizona, but I’ve never experienced that here, so that’s another big plus.

I like the people here too, and more and more people are learning English all the time, I’ve heard. I really haven’t spoken Spanish to anyone since I came back this time. Last year, I did speak Spanish occasionally, when I was learning my way around and trying to find things in stores and get oriented as to utilities, and so forth, but now that’s all taken care of, and I can find my way around for any type of services I need, I rarely need to seek help. About the only Spanish I ever use anymore, is to say gracias, which is thank you, or por favor, which is please.

I really haven’t found a single downside to living here in Mexico, except that I do sometimes long for a friend just go places with and to talk to. It’s a good thing I love to read, or I guess I’d be likely to get bored here. I haven’t even driven up to Canyon Country yet, and I’d still like to take that train trip from Chihuahua to the coast, but hate to go by myself. I hate to say it, but I’m just an old homebody. But, it’s so nice not to ever have to worry about money, and about prices continually rising. I’ll still be able to go back to the states for medicare treatment. About the only thing of value I’d lose by moving here would be the supplemental insurance coverage that is now being paid for by the State of Arizona. I’d lose that, of course, but could gain enough in savings to pay for supplemental insurance myself. Also, I’m hoping I can get enough for my property in Arizona, that I can start a business here. I might just start with a good detailing shop, and later add a car wash. It all depends on what I can get for my property there in the U.S., and what it will cost down here to build. I’d do everything as economically down here, as possible. Fortunately, with my background in architecture, I know lots of ways to save money on a house. I’d probably just build with stucco over block or adobe bricks. And, I will trim back a bit on the sq. ft. portion of the house I’ve designed, that I’d be using for myself, and put more into the apartment portion. I want to have a spa, for sure, and I’d like to have a small swimming pool, just about a twelve by fifteen or twenty foot pool. But that’s not a must, and it would come later. I’d just start out with what I absolutely needed, and bring my frig and stove from the states, plus a few other things. Mostly, I’d get furniture down here. I don’t think I’d even want the house carpeted, except in the living room and bedroom…the rest would be terrazzo, which is cheap down here. I could afford a housekeeper here, and even a cook if I wanted one. And, I wouldn’t have any yard maintenance if I can build here in the park. They keep it nice and mow it regularly in the summer. I want to have a nice screened in patio where I can sit outside a lot, and not be bothered by flies. It’s just unfortunate they’re so bad, here close to the water, and the dogs draw them too. But, I like being by this little lake. I really do love this area of Mexico, and I’ve been a lot of different places in Mexico. I definitely don’t want to live in the tropic part of the country, because of the humidity. It is lush and beautiful, but I can’t stand the heat and humidity. The altitude is what makes it so nice here, and the fact that within five to six hours, I can be in the U.S. And, Agua Prieta is a safe, fast border crossing. So, is Presidio, Texas, and I wouldn’t be afraid to cross at Juarez. That’s where my landlord crosses and he never has any trouble. He says the border wars are so over-rated--that they never affect tourists, but all the stuff in the press has people in the U.S. afraid to cross. It’s crazy how people will believe anything they read in the press, but question so much they read in the Bible! Funny, when you think about it. With that, I’m going to close, before I jump to the next page. Please write and stay in touch. Just about the most exciting thing I do is to open my emails! Ha Ha.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hi Everybody,

Well, I’ve been in Mexico a month and I think I have enough news for another update. For the past month, at times it has been unbearably hot. My air conditioner went out on my RV and all I can use is the vent to bring air in from outside. Strangely enough, when I’m outside, in the shade, just sitting and reading or grooming one of the dogs, it is very pleasant. There’s nearly always a nice little breeze blowing, but the past three days, Friday through Sunday, were hot, so hot that when I was inside the RV, sitting at my laptop, I hung a cold washcloth over the back of my neck, and occasionally took it and wiped it across my face. Between two and seven o’clock, it was hottest, so each of those three days, about five I would go to the bathhouse and take a cold shower (it really wasn’t all that cold, and actually felt very refreshing), then I’d dry off and just go sit on the shady side of my RV and read. It is so quiet back here where I am in the back of the park. It’s really quite pleasant. I have a pretty comfortable chair, with arms, so I line it with a heavy beach towel and prop my legs on a stool I brought here with me. I usually have a cold drink nearby and a book in one hand and fly swatter in the other. There have been no flies to speak of, until the past week. They’re beginning to gather now, because it’s getting close to the rainy season. In fact, last week we had a pretty good rain, though it only rained for a few minutes, but even yesterday it clouded up and thundered with lightning, but only for about thirty minutes, then passed over without raining. That was just after dark, and, of course, the minute the first thunder clap sounded, I heard the two big dogs scratching at the door. I got up and went and looked and even before I heard them scratch, I knew they’d be there. They love to come inside and that’s only the second time they’ve been inside the RV since I’ve been here this time…I came down on the sixth of May. The first time was when it rained last week, of course.
When they hear that first thunder clap, that’s their cue to crawl out from under the RV or out of their doghouses and come stand by the door. They know I’m a softy and will let them in. They’re both so old and I feel the least I can do is pamper them in the few remaining months they have left to live. They still get around alright, but they walk pretty slowly and when they get ready to lie down, they’re both very tentative, like it hurts them to fold their legs under them. If anyone knows if it would be alright to mix like half an aspirin into their food each day, write and tell me. It seems I heard you can do that for arthritic dogs. Funny thing, though, when I open the door to the RV and call them in, they shoot up those three steps like puppies! I guess they are that eager. I don’t know if they are really all that afraid of the rain and clashes and flashes in the sky, or if they just use that as an excuse to be in here with me and the little dogs. But, like I say, I don’t care, because I don’t expect to have them with me very much longer. They are both more than eleven years old, could even be fourteen or fifteen, though big breed dogs seldom live past twelve or thirteen years. I got both of them from animal shelters, and don’t know how old they were at the time. It’s Duster, the big black dog, and Sasha, the yellow terrier, that I’m talking about.
This morning I got up and made biscuits, gravy and scrambled eggs for breakfast, pretty tasty. I prefer buttermilk biscuits, but since I didn’t have buttermilk, I used baking soda and half and half, plus flour, salt, sugar, butter and a liberal sprinkling of dried thyme and dried rosemary. I like herb biscuits and they did rise very nicely. I chilled the dough for about an hour in the frig before rolling them out, then baked them in my little infrawave oven. I made enough to have four or five meals, and just keep them in plastic baggies in the frig. Sometimes, I have even frozen them, then just take them out as I want to use them. It all depends on how many I make and how often I expect to use them.
Last week, I made a big casserole of macaroni and cheese, made with sharp cheddar cheese and lots of milk/cheese sauce. Throughout the macaroni I cut up onions, bell pepper, and bits of Virginia ham, about a half pound. Then I even added about a cup of frozen peas. I made a big fifteen-inch loaf of garlic bread, spread it with butter, roasted garlic, pesto and grated Parmesan, wrapped it in foil and took everything to my landlady for their family dinner that night. I had told her the day before I was going to bring dinner for them the next night and asked her if the kids liked macaroni and cheese. She’d told me, oh yes, they were not picky eaters and always liked everything I took to them. I also fixed a big green salad, so that was their entire meal. I told her how to fix everything, because the casserole dish and the bread was too big to fit into my little oven. But, I made smaller portions for myself, and have one more meal of the macaroni left. I prepared hers in a big aluminum, disposable pan, and after I had the macaroni in the pan I layered the top with freshly-sliced tomatoes, salted them, then spread about ¾ cup more of shredded cheese, and topped the whole thing with a nice layer of Panko crumbs that I’d sautéed in butter. I took it all to her about five o’clock and she lit her oven right while I was there. The next day I saw her husband and asked how they liked what I’d brought. He said when he and the two bigger boys had gone in the house about five forty-five, they could smell it baking, and he said they all just loved it. Toward the end of this week, I’m going to take them a big pot of spaghetti. She sends things back to me all the time, too, so I’m glad to do that for them. They don’t get to go out that often with four kids, so I know it’s a real treat for them. She always thanks me profusely, and so do the kids and her husband when they see me out about the park. Anyway, Christy told me later they made two meals off the macaroni. I always try to take enough for two meals, each time I take anything to them.
I’ve only been in town in Cuauhtemoc twice since I got here a month ago. I had a lot of stuff on hand here already and brought three cold chests of food with me from home, plus I can find almost anything I need within a couple of kilometers, but I’m about out of food for the big dogs and I like to get that at Wal-Mart. Both times I was in town before, I ate at the new Appleby’s restaurant that just opened close to Wal-Mart. In fact, the first time I stopped by there, when I noticed they were open, I was speaking with the man who was over here from Applebys in Chihuahua, for two weeks to train the staff, and I asked him how long they’d been open. He said, “Today,” and I asked him, “You mean today is your first day open?” and he said yes, so that was pretty neat to be there on opening day. I had known for about a year they’d have an Applebys near Wal-Mart, but didn’t know where it would be or when it would open. They built it while I was back in Tombstone this spring. They have such good food, and I’ve always enjoyed eating there--never had a bad meal. Now, if they would just open a Macaroni Grill. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
I plan to take Duster to a vet in town who said he would groom him for me, so I’ll stop be there today and see if I can catch him in. He’s the same vet that came out here to the RV to give all five dogs their shots last February, and fill out the forms so I could take them back into the U.S. He speaks pretty good English. I’m also going to have him cut Duster’s toenails and clean his teeth. I think I’ll just have most of the matted hair shaved off him, because he’s so old and he hates to be groomed. He’s in bad shape and that’s why I don’t want to mess with him. He stays in under the RV during the day, when it’s hot. In fact, so does Sasha. It’s about twenty-two inches from the ground to the underside of the RV, so they have plenty of room, and I have a couple of big textured mats under there that they like to lie on. I got them at Costco, before I came down here last year. They’re about three feet by five, so they’re big enough that, for the past three hot days, I’ve given serious thought to crawling under there with them! I have an extra hose, about 25’ that runs off my water line that I use to wash things down with, and to give the dogs fresh water, and to water my tomatoes and herbs. The last three days, the water trapped in those hoses as they laid on the ground got so hot that I couldn’t put my hands under it until it ran out and turned cool again.
They’re draining the pond right behind my RV. They have a pump that is pumping the water out and putting it into the next lake over, behind the power plant, but fresh water is coming into the lake from one corner, so maybe they’re just re-circulating it. They didn’t do that last year, though; maybe it’s just something they do every couple or three years, to keep it from getting stagnant. I’ve been meaning to ask my landlord about it, but keep forgetting. They’ve been draining it now for about five days. I’m going to try to send a few more pictures with this update. If not, I’ll send them along separately. I took them about a week ago. I really love the one taken of the back of the plant, across the lake. If you look closely, you can see my RV in some of the pics taken across the lake, toward the RV park. If you can enlarge the pictures on your screen, you can see it better. My landlord’s house and buildings are beyond and behind my RV from the shots across the lake, but you can see how empty the park is and how much privacy I have.
I just love it here. The only downside, is that I get rather starved for communication. I talk to the people, occasionally, who own the park, but they have their own busy lives, so I just spend most of my time alone. It’s one reason why I like having the dogs here. I don’t feel so alone with them, and they’re a lot of company, especially the little ones inside. I still read a lot. I’ve finished five or six books since I came down here. Right now, I’m reading The Winds of War, by Herman Wouk. He’s the same author who wrote The Caine Mutiny, which was made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart as Captain Quigley. The Winds of War is about the events leading up to and during the Second World War that took place between 1939 and 1941. I had read it before, but it’s been twenty five or thirty years ago. It came out in 1971, and there was a mini-series on TV about it, starring Robert Mitchum. I remember watching it. Wouk wrote a follow up novel about the remainder of the war years, called War and Remembrance. I also have it with me, and will read it next. I also watch movies, mostly while I’m eating alone here. Right now, I’m watching Gone With the Wind, for the umpteenth time. I know I’ve seen that movie, over the years, at least fifteen or twenty times, and I love to reread Margaret Mitchell’s book at least once every five years or so. It’s made more money, proportionate to what money was worth at the time, than any movie ever made, and I never tire of watching it. Since I’ve been here, I’ve also watched The Last Samurai, and Gladiator. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but have about thirty DVDs with me. I may look into getting a satellite receiver. My landlord gave me a satellite dish that some RVer left here last year, so all I need is the receiver box. I can subscribe to Sky Satellite here for about $12 to $15 a month and they have a lot of English programming, I’m told. I’m going to look into it the next time I go to town.
Two Days Later
I met a really nice couple that have been here in the park for about a week. They have the strangest looking RV, and I’d noticed it and wondered about it. They’re parked up near the bathhouse, and so last night, I had gone up there for my ritual cold shower about five and when I came out the whole family happened to be outside their RV, so I stopped and asked, “Are you folks here from the states?” They said, “No, they were from France.” It was a couple in their forties, I’d say, and they had a teenage daughter, about sixteen or seventeen, named Audrey, and a son, who I found out is fourteen. His name is Titouan. The father is Andre and the mother is Catherine. I didn’t find out their last name. They all spoke good enough English to converse with me, and the young daughter spoke very good English.
Anyway, their RV was built high off the ground, and was just a little longer than mine. On the outside they have three huge tires mounted up on the RV, as spares, and the truck itself has four of the same tires, thick and big. They have a ladder, about seven steps, to get up in their RV, though it rests on the ground, to form steps. I started asking them questions, and found out they’ve been traveling for seven years, and have been all over Europe, first, then all over Asia, Africa and South America. They were in I forget how many countries in Asia, about twenty or thirty, and they’ve been in twenty-five countries in Africa, and in every country in South America and in Central America. The father asked me if I knew where the bus station was in Cuauhtemoc, because they had to take a cab to the bus station this morning, a bus to Chihuahua, and another cab to the airport in Chihuahua. They were leaving their RV here for five weeks while they flew home to France so the two kids could take tests to qualify for credits to graduate. The mother and father are home schooling them, and I also found out they’re all vegetarians. Anyway, to make a long story short, I offered to drive them to the airport in Chihuahua today. They were to get a plane out of there at 12:15 to Mexico City, where they’d have a five-hour layover, then a plane from Mexico City to Paris. When they got to Paris they would get a cab to stay with relatives. They used to own a business in France, which I assume was very successful, because they sold their home and business seven years ago and have traveled all over the world. They will fly back here on July 20, arriving in Chihuahua at 7:20 in the evening, so I told them I’d be at the airport to pick them up. I had to empty my car and trunk…they had a lot of luggage, going for five weeks, and then to make room in the car for them to sit. They were overjoyed. They don’t have a car, so to get groceries, they do that before they get to an RV park. They told me that a lot of the places they traveled didn’t even know what an RV park was, but their rig is custom-built so it is totally-self contained. It carries eighty gallons of water, and fifty gallons of gas. The mother speaks fluent German, and of course they all speak French, and the teenage girl speaks also speaks fluent Spanish and English.
They must be pretty wealthy, because it costs a lot to travel, plus at each country’s border they have to buy travel permits for their vehicle and for each person in the family. The girl rode up front with me on the way to Chihuahua today, since she speaks good English, and she translated for the family, what they didn’t understand themselves. She told me the worst country to travel in was India. When they get back here to the park in July, they said they’d show me a lot of stuff they’ve collected along the way, plus some of the pictures they’ve taken. They paid my toll on the toll road to Chihuahua and gave me enough money to pay the toll on the way back. They also bought me a tank of gas. They were overwhelmingly grateful when I offered to take them to the airport. I picked them up at eight this morning and we were at the airport by ten. It’s twelve midnight, as I’m writing this, so if they are still on schedule, they’re somewhere over the Atlantic now, nearing Europe. They were really an interesting family. They gave me a picture of their RV, which they call ANAUTICA which incorporates all four of their name initials. The girl, Audrey told me they had collected a coin of each denomination from each country they had visited. I talked with them for about fifteen minutes last night then all the way to Chihuahua, but I’m really looking forward to getting to know them better when they come back. They’re planning to stay here for about a week, and then from here they are still planning to go to the Baja, to Alaska, all through Canada and all through the U.S. I told them they would love traveling in the U.S., because the roads are so well-marked. And, I told them when they’re in L.A. to watch carefully for exits on the freeways and interstates, because if they miss an exit it can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour to get back to the exit they missed, since one freeway or interstate feeds into the next, and into the next. They’re planning to travel all throughout the U.S., then go home to France. They said they’d have to buy a home when they got to France, but I have their email address, which is simply: When they come back, I want to get some pictures of them. In fact, before I send out this update, I’ll try to take a picture of their RV and include it with the pictures I send. They jacked up the front of their RV while they’re gone for five weeks, since the rainy season is just about ready to start here, and they said water will drain off their rig better with it slightly slanted. I suppose after they come back, I’ll have more to say about them, but they told me when they get home, if I’m ever in France to come stay with them. Of course, I don’t expect to be going back to Europe, not as much as it costs to travel nowadays. When I got out of the car with them at the airport, to unload their luggage from my trunk, they all hugged and kissed me, and took pictures. Then I took a picture of the family, with the name of the airport in the background. Such a nice family.
Before we left this morning, they brought me some stuff from their frig, and I packed up a plastic box, with four cupcakes, four pastry cookies, some small carrots in little cellophane packs, some peanut butter and cheese crackers and about twenty pieces of wrapped candy--little miniature candy bars. They were so grateful. I told them, it was something to eat on the flight. I put the box in a plastic bag so it’d be easy to carry.
Well, I’m getting sleepy, so I’m going to sign off. I’m planning to go online tomorrow, so will get this sent out then. Witold will update my blog with this newsletter, so you can check it out there at: When that family gets back here to the park, I’m going to tell them how to set up a blog, in case they’re interested in doing that too. I’m so glad I stopped to talk with them last night. You can meet some really interesting people in RV parks, and in marinas, or while traveling. I plan to stay in contact with them by email. They have a computer they travel with, of course. I gave them my email addresses and also my cell phone number here in Mexico. When they get back, I’ll give them my phone number in Tombstone, and if they come through Arizona while I’m there, I want them to come and stay a few days with me. I have plenty of room, and there’s so much to see of the old west environment around Tombstone, Bisbee, Douglas and Benson, and there’s a lot to see in Tucson. I’ll tell them they can take my car and travel around the area, and I may go with them some days. When they get ready to leave for France, they plan to come back to Mexico and ship out from here. Audrey told me when they cross oceans, they take a ship that they can just drive their rig onto. They told me what that kind of ship is called, but I forget. It’s an ocean-going vessel though, not just a ferry. They’ll ship their rig back from Mexico. They told me they came to South America from Africa and started out at Buenos Airies, and were in every country in South America. What an adventure. They told me they have felt very safe, everywhere they’ve traveled. Oh yes, and they’ve been all over the Middle East, too. I told the parents that’s the best education kids can possibly have. The mother teaches them math and grammar in French and German, and the father teaches them history, chemistry, biology, and several other things. They tried to tell me the kind of business they had in France, the one they sold, but I couldn’t understand what it was. Audrey didn’t know any other way to describe it, but she called it something like “Feema, or Fima.” If anyone knows what that might be, write and let me know. They must have spent probably close to a million dollars by now, traveling for seven years, and they are planning to buy a home when they return to France. They live in the southern part of Brittany.
Well, I’m going to sign off and sorry for making this so long, but I wanted to tell you all about this French family. They are interesting people, for sure. What neat thing to do, to travel on five continents and visit every country on each one. They told me they even went to Somalia and Iran, as well as Columbia in South America. They said that people have been friendly and have helped them everywhere they’ve traveled. They carry spare parts for the RV and the father and son know how to do all kinds of repair.
Write to me and tell me what’s happening in your lives.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Back in Mexico

Well, I’m in Mexico now. I came here on the 6th of May, last Thursday. It was a tiring trip and I had a lot to do when I got here, unloading and putting things away, and I couldn’t really take my time at it, because I don’t have anywhere to put things in the RV until I can get to it, like I do at home in Tombstone. Anyway, I’m all straightened out now, and even made biscuits this morning. However, I have a serious problem that I need to take care of tomorrow. Somewhere in the RV is a leak, and the floor in the aisle is soaking wet. I could hear water coming out somewhere, and had to turn off the faucet outside, to stop it. I’m not sure what’s wrong, but couldn’t do anything about it today, since it’s Sunday and nobody works here that I could call today. The guy who fixed my RV roof knows some plumbers, so I can go tomorrow where he works and ask him to call them. Then I’ll have to work at sopping up water. I took up the rug runners in the RV aisle, but the carpet underneath them was soaked, so I’ll just have to let it go until tomorrow. I could start sopping it up with towels, but don’t have that many. I’m drying the rugs outside overnight, so I can turn them upside down tomorrow, on the carpet and try to soak up some of the water. Then, I’ll just have to let it dry out over time, I guess. I’ll keep soaking up as much as I can, and if it isn’t too hot, I’ll turn the heater on and go outside.

The first two days I was here, Friday and Saturday, it was as hot as it’s ever gotten here, but today it was windy and had cooled off a lot. Too bad I didn’t have the leak when it was hot, it would have dried a lot easier. The dogs were glad to get here and on Friday morning, my landlord came here to the RV to welcome me back. He had a tray of homemade coffee rolls, and some cupcakes. Then yesterday, Saturday, his son brought me some tortillas with steak, salsa and guacamole, so I had that for dinner last night. They sure do spoil me here. One of the boys helped me unload the car and took some things out of the RV for me, that I had left inside while I was in Tombstone. He was a lot of help and I gave him a ten peso coin--that’s about 85 cents.

I did a load of washing yesterday and pulled a few weeds around the RV, but they weren’t so bad, not like in Tombstone. Before I left Arizona last week, I spread AMAZE over the entire yard. It’s a weed inhibitor, and it really helps to control weeds. My property there was in pretty good shape and I just took my time getting everything up to speed. The time went so fast while I was in Tombstone. What I miss most here is my bed and taking baths. I have to take showers here, and I do love to soak in a tub of hot water, when I’m tired, or when I can’t get to sleep. So, I miss that, but this time, I’ll only be here until about mid September, so that time will go fast. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I was here more than nine months. The time went so fast. I do get a lot of rest here, because I can literally almost stand in one spot to cook a meal, and there sure isn’t that much cleaning to do. I do what I want to and when I get tired, I stop and lay down, so it is a lot more restful and relaxing than living in Tombstone, but I like both places, really, so I know I’ll enjoy living in each place three to four months at a time. I plan to spend the hot summer months here, because it seldom gets above eighty degrees and there is almost always a nice breeze. Also, the rainy season here lasts from the first of June until about mid September, so that keeps it much cooler. Then, I’ll spend the cold winter months here, late December through March, because that is when it costs the most to heat my house in Tombstone, and here my heat is paid for. Also, since I’ll be here in the summer, I won’t have to use my swamp coolers, and they run up my electric bill, too. Arizona had two rate increases last year while I was gone here in Mexico, so I can save the most money by living here in the hottest and coolest months of the year. I will be a nice change of pace for me, and is sort of like going on vacation a couple of times a year. I really do like it down here and I’m in a very safe area. It’s good road all the way down and I can drive it in about seven hours. I lose an hour coming down because this is in the central time zone, and I gain an hour going back to Tombstone, since it’s in the mountain time zone.

Well, it’s 12:30 a.m., and I’m sleepy, so I’ll sign off and finish this later. I plan to buy some cell phone time and some internet time in the next couple of days, but I’ll first wait and see what my leak repairs cost. The nice thing is I can buy as much or as little time as I can afford, with about a $20 minimum. Then I can use it sparingly and it ends up being very affordable. I had all my services turned off when I left Tombstone, my phone, internet, TV satellite, water and even got my car de-insured, since U.S. insurance doesn’t cover anything in Mexico. I left my electricity on, because my refrigerator in the house, and my freezer in the storage shed have food in them. Everything was okay when I got home to Tombstone, that I had left there, and everything was okay here in Mexico when I got back, because the power was on here, too

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hello again, from Mexico,

I think it’s been about a month since my last update, maybe even longer. I’ve been enjoying winter here. Christmas eve, we had snow, but just a dusting on the ground, and it got really, cold after dark. Then, the wind started blowing something fierce, actually rocking the RV. I let the two big dogs sleep inside all night. They don’t like wind, and they’re both getting slower, because of their ages. They both find it a little harder, to climb in and out of the RV, so, I pamper them all I can. I keep just enough heat in the RV at night, so nothing freezes up, but, at least, it’s out of the wind, so it’s snug and warm, for the dogs. I used to put up a wooden barrier at the end of the bed, when I let them in, so they couldn’t get past the sink in the kitchen area, but, for the past couple of months, when I let them in, they stay back there, without a barrier. They learn pretty quick, that they’re not allowed beyond a certain point. Dogs are like that. Once they know something is a no no, they never forget. All of my dogs are good, and since I know I won’t have at least three of them, more than another year or two, if that long, I don’t mind indulging them a little, from time to time.
I let Dozer, my sixteen to eighteen pound combination Shih Tzu/Lhasa Apso, sleep in the RV, every night, because he won’t sleep in his dog house. If I leave him out, he sleeps on the metal step of the RV, right at the outside of the door, so I threw a rug back against the wall, under the table, and that’s where he sleeps. It gets below freezing, and I suppose he’d be okay outside, but I don’t mind him being in here. He just sleeps all the time, when he’s inside, except when I feed him. I always feed the three small dogs, inside, and the big ones outside. That way, they don’t get into each other’s food. I have to feed my little black dog, soft food, since he doesn’t have enough teeth to chew anything hard. That little guy has to be at least fourteen or fifteen years old, because I’ve had him since early in 1997, and he was a mature dog then. But, he seems as spry and active as he always did, even though the hair on his head and face is almost grey. And, he still has an attitude. He growls, even when I pick him up, unless he knows I’m feeding him. Since I have to give him soft meats and cheese, I feed him in the little compartment in the RV, above the cab, so the other two smaller dogs, won’t get his food.

Oh, one other thing. I was typing today, on the computer, and detected some movement. out of the corner of my eye, and looked over on the bench seat of the table booth, where Scout (the dog that was gone overnight, back in the summer, that I was afraid I had lost), was laying on his side, with his back to the wall, and all four of his little paws were flipping, to beat sixty. He must have been dreaming he was running, or swimming. He looked so cute, like a little wind up, animated toy dog. I reached over and shook his paw, and that didn’t phase him. He may have thought a dog was chasing him, or maybe he was chasing a female--a more likely scenario. He’s normally so easy to wake. I can say speak his name, or make the slightest movement, and he’s up in a flash, but today, he was, out of it. I pulled on one of his legs, and he finally opened his eyes, and looked disoriented, for a moment, which he never does. He’s always instantly awake, if he thinks he might miss something, or, if I say, “Come guys, let’s go out.”

Finally, he got his bearings, but he must have been dreaming, or having a nightmare, to be running like that in his sleep. It was so funny, I had to watch him for a while, and he kept it up for at least forty-five seconds, or a minute, before I woke him.

The water froze up in the source to the park, once already, but the landlord got it fixed, by noon. The weather here is amazing. It gets so cold at night, that my dogs water, outside, freezes up solid, and I have to take fresh water from inside, to them, first thing in the morning, but then, during the day it gets so warm, that for a least a couple of hours, almost every day, I have the door, and the windows open. It’s because of the altitude, it gets so cold at night, but I’m far enough south, that’s it’s warm during the day.

It’s plenty snug inside my RV though, with the one heater on low all night, it comes on automatically, if the temperature drops below about sixty degrees, and, I have an electric blanket on my bed, so I’m always very comfortable. I keep it set at about five, which is medium heat.

It was quiet around here on Christmas day, and about 1:00 p.m., I was sitting in my RV, wondering what I would fix for my Christmas dinner, when my landlord’s son drove up in their pickup, and brought a huge casserole, filled with Mennonite foods, creamed corn, with some kind of a custard in it, rice with shrimp and potatoes, smoked, pulled pork, which was so tasty and good, some kind of a beef dish, marinated with spices--very tender and tasty, meat balls, and sautéed carrots, fixed with squash. His mother also sent a separate container of salad, made with cucumbers, feta cheese, lettuce and carrots, plus a big bag of homemade rolls. I told her son, I had just been wondering what I would fix for my Christmas dinner, so I told him, they must have been reading my mind. It ate a meal that night, and made up four additional meals, and froze three of them. I just ate the last one, a couple of nights ago. They are really good people, and I take them food about once every week, or two.

Day before yesterday, Sunday, they had a group of people at their house, for dinner, and their son, came again, and brought me a meal. This time, it was just one meal, some tortillas, guacamole, salsa, grilled steak, rice, and a salad. Really looked and smelled good, so I was anxious to try it. I had it for dinner that evening, and it was very good. She’s a good cook, and I’ve had a chance to try things, I’d never tasted before. I took them a huge aluminum pan of lasagna about 2 weeks ago, then a week ago yesterday, Saturday, I took a big roasting pan full of homemade enchiladas, and yesterday, I took a big stock pot of soup, made with so many things, I won’t even try to name them all, but it was very good. I usually always take enough for two or three meals, since there are six of them.

The landlord told me a couple of days ago, he had a call that a caravan of RVers is coming in sometime this week, 21 Rvs, and they’ll stay two nights.

He said he used to get a lot of caravans coming through during the summer, but with the cost of gas in the states, people just aren’t traveling in RVs the way they used to.

I remember when I was living and traveling in my RV, back in the nineties, I used to see so many RVs on the highways, but since about 2004, they’ve just about disappeared. It’s rare I see them anymore, and I rarely see any in this part of Mexico. If people have RVs here, they’re probably living in them, like me. I’m sure there are still a lot of travelers, along the coast, though. That’s where all the resort areas are, and everything there also costs twice as much as it does here.
There’s a leak in my RV, coming from somewhere, that gets the rug, in the middle of the floor, soaking wet. I keep sopping it up with a rug, that I take outside to dry, but tomorrow, I’m going to have someone take a look at it. It must be a leak in the reserve tank, or the water line. I know it’s not the dogs! They never do anything inside, besides, it doesn’t have an odor. I’ll have to get it fixed, because eventually, it will rot the carpet, if I don’t. I just have no idea where the water is coming from; it only started up, about a week ago.

I’m still finding things in the grocery stores down here, which I try from time to time. There are so many things I’ve never seen in the states, and so far, I’ve liked everything I’ve tried. They have some crackers here, that are made like a combination cracker, and tortilla, that are so good with dip. I make my own dip, most of the time, with cream cheese, finely-diced bell pepper, onion, black olives, and tomato, then add chipotle seasoning, very tasty, especially with those crackers. And, I still love their tomato/celery juice, and their flan. I keep flan, all the time, and have a little container of it three or four nights, a week. And, there is an ice cream bar here that has a mocha chocolate coating on it, dipped in toasted nuts, over vanilla ice cream, that is to die for. Also, they have a sour, key lime sherbet bar, that is awesome. Mike, you would love that. I remember how much you liked those sour, lime popsicles. Their cookies here are incredible, and their bread and pastries, outstanding. I love almost everything I try. There are many fruits and vegetables that I still haven’t tried. I did get some watermelon a couple of weeks ago, that I threw away, because it didn’t have much taste, but that’s the first fruit I’ve tried that I didn’t love. Last week, I got some plum colored, seedless grapes that were enormous, almost as big as walnuts, that were awesome, and I just ate the last of them today.

About the only thing I’ve never bought here, is meat, because I had so much in my freezer, when I moved down here. I think I still have a couple of pounds of ground beef, and, at least three or four pounds of chicken. And, I have plenty of cheese.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Dogs and my RV

Thursday, December 17, 2009

MEXICO’S CANYON “The Majestic Barrancas”

First Installment--December 16, 2009
There are few people over the age of forty to fifty in the United States, who have not heard of the Humphrey Bogart movie, “Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is of little importance, in terms of memorable phenomenon, but, also, few people know that the real treasure of the Sierra Madre, is its quaint villages, beautiful rivers, white water rapids, tall waterfalls, and deep canyons. I wonder how many well-educated people there are in the United States, who are aware that, In Mexico’s Canyon Country, less than 350 miles from the border, are five beautiful canyons, that are deeper and larger than the well-known Grand Canyon, which lies between Utah and Arizona. Parts of all of these canyons are accessible by road, and there are guides available, who can lead hiking or backpacking expeditions into them. At least two of the Canyons, are pretty much unexplored.

As, a basis of comparison, the Grand Canyon, of the Colorado River, is less than 4700 feet deep at Hopi Point, which is the deepest measurement made of the canyon. I have been to the Grand Canyon; I’ve stood on its rim, and looked miles in each direction, and about a mile across. I have pictures to prove it, and it’s an awesome, magnificent site to behold. People visit the Grand Canyon during all seasons of the year, and particularly summer, when the weather is normally pleasant and the views are spectacular. On the floor of the Grand Canyon, temperatures can reach well over 100° and people have become seriously dehydrated, or suffered heat stroke, trying to hike down into the canyon on well-worn, marked trails. People are warned to take plenty of water and salt pills, to make frequent rest stops to cool down, and most important, to take one or more persons along.

Temperatures in the Grand Canyon, during winter months, can and usually does drop well below freezing, and often, below zero. The canyon can become so filled with fog, it is impossible to see anything beyond the rim, and winds at the Grand Canyon, can be strong enough to blow a person over the rim, if they dare to stand too close. People have hiked the Grand Canyon, rafted the Grand Canyon, parasailed over the Grand Canyon. They have written books about it, poetry about it, songs about it, even classical music about it.

It is one of the truly great wonders of the United States, and people have come to see it, from all over the world. Two great dams have been built in the Grand Canyon, and a huge lake is backed up behind it, that has over a thousand miles of shoreline. It surely is a great phenomenon.

Urique Canyon, in northern Mexico, located in the southwest quadrant of the province, or state, of Chihuahua, is over 6100 feet deep, the deepest of the five canyons that are larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The picturesque villages of Cerocahui and Urique can be reached on a paved road. Cerocahui is located at the rim of the canyon, and Urique is actually located beside the Urique River in the bottom of the canyon, less than ten miles by motor vehicle, from Ceracahui. Because Urique Canyon is very wide, it is covered with vegetation during the rainy season, and is one of the most visited of the five canyons.

The next deepest canyon is Sinforosa, and is one of the least accessible of the canyons, virtually unexplored. It is over 5900 feet deep, narrow, and piled with huge boulders. It is not navigable, at any time of year, but there are numerous backpacking trails throughout the canyon. Today, there are both Mexicans and Tarahumara Indians (native mexicans) living in the canyon. A notable difference between the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and Sinforosa Canyon, is the way rapids are formed. On the Colorado, most of the boulders that create rapids are washed into the river channel from side canyons, but, because of the narrow Sinforosa Canyon, the majority of boulder fields and rapids are created by huge slabs that fall directly into the river from above.

After the Sinforosa, the next deepest canyon is Batopilas, which is named after the village of Batopilas, located near the banks of the Batopilas River, which flows through the canyon. Batopilas has been known, historically, as one of the richest towns in Mexico, and was founded and built because of the silver mined there in the late eighteen hundreds.
Also in the canyon, near the river, and miles from any settlement are the remains of a huge cathedral. The closest settlement is Satevo, and there has never been a record of any type of settlement close enough to need, or use such a large cathedral. It was constructed with three domes, and four half-domes, and has a vaulted ceiling. Its origin and purpose are cloaked in mystery. No records have ever been found concerning the cathedral, and it is likely the records were sent to another area during wars and raids at some time, and were lost in transit.

The next deepest is Copper Canyon, known in Mexico, as the Barranca del Cobre, which is almost 5800 feet deep. This canyon is also much explored and much visited, and many attempts have been made to travel the river, which is made impassable by a huge boulder pile and waterfalls. There is a stretch over a mile long, where the river actually goes underground. The canyon is easily accessible by paved road, from Creel, the mountain village which is a jumping off point for all of Canyon Country.

The last of the five canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, is the Guaynopa Canyon, which is over 5300 feet deep, and was cut by the Yaqui River, which no longer exists due to hydroelectric projects which have captured or diverted its flow. Many of the features and characteristics of the Guaynopa Canyon are similar to Copper Canyon.

A smaller canyon, in Canyon Country, is Fuerte Canyon, located at the south end of Urique Canyon; it’s a well-kept secret, and one of the most beautiful of all the canyons.

The canyons have been formed by three main rivers, largest of which is the Rio Urique; the other two rivers are the Rio Verde and Rio Batopolis. These three rivers have carved the canyons of northern Mexico, one of the greatest canyon systems on earth. Because of the inaccessibility of the Rio Verde, it is one of the least documented and least explored areas in North America.

Canyons in Mexico are called barrancas, so the Mexican names for the canyons are: Barranca de Urique, Barranca de Sinforosa, Barranca de Batopilas, Barranca del Cobre, and Barranca de Guaynopa. Mexicans, and indians in the region are very proud of their canyons, but tend to take them for granted. They are not nearly so awed by their majestic size as Americans are by the Grand Canyon.

Creel, the departure point for roads leading to the various canyons is approximately 150 miles from the city of Chihuahua, also the capital of the state of Chihuahua. Chihuahua is a modern city with a population of more than a million people. Sixty miles west of the city of Chihuahua, is the city of Cuauhtemoc, where I live. Cuauhtemoc takes its name from the name of the last Aztec emperor, and is one of the most affluent communities in the entire country. It is largely native Mexicans, and a very large Mennonite population lives and farms in the area. There are numerous thriving businesses, and little or no poverty. It is a clean area, and prices are based on what the average Mexican can afford, since it is not centered around tourism.

Cuauhtemoc is located less than 300 miles southeast of Douglas, Arizona, and that is where I cross the border. The city on the Mexican side of the border, at Douglas, is called Agua Prieta. The terrain all the way from Agua Prieta to Cuauhtemoc, is beautiful, through wide open valleys, with mountains always in the distance, or near at hand. I crossed one mountain pass, less than one hundred miles from Agua Prieta. The highway is paved, and well-maintained all the way, and I’ve seen many big semi rigs, and huge modern buses travel it regularly. Janus, Buenaventura, Casas Grande, and Obregon are the main towns I pass through. There are gas stations in every small village, and several in the larger towns. They are all owned by the country of Mexico, so the prices are the same in each station, something I always hated about the U.S., where gas in two stations across the street from one another could vary as much as $.50 a gallon. Gas here is about twenty to twenty-five percent less expensive than in the U.S., but nearly everything else is much less expensive, especially food and utilities.

A person can live quite comfortably in the area on $800 to $1000 a month, and there are foods here that I can’t even find in the U.S. There is a huge supply of fresh fruits and vegetables all year round, and in Cuauhtemoc, alone, there are six or seven large modern supermarkets and hundreds of small neighborhood stores. There is a super Wal-Mart here, and Appleby’s is opening an outlet near it. Pizza Hut, Dominos, Auto Zone, and Kentucky Fried Chicken are also here in Cuauhtemoc. This is one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico, and nearly everywhere you go here, someone speaks pretty good English. I know a lot of Spanish, but don’t get to use it much, because when people here find out I speak English, they want to practice their English on me! So, I rarely have an opportunity to practice speaking Spanish.

I live in my small RV, in a secure park, on a main road, about ten miles north of the city of Cuauhtemoc, and about 25 miles south of Obregon. The owner lives on the property and the park is locked every night, so I feel safer here than anywhere I ever lived in the U.S., and I’ve lived in the U.S. all my life, until I came here to live, in May of 2009. I have five dogs with me, two big ones and three small ones, and the owner of the park let me put a fence around my RV, so my dogs don’t run free in the park, although, if I want to let them out for a romp, he doesn’t mind. The owner and his wife and their four children all speak Spanish, plus fluent English, and fluent German. I have shower and bath facilities in my RV, but there are shower, restroom, and laundry facilities right here in the park. I have more privacy than I have ever had anywhere I lived in the U.S., and just behind my RV, I can see from my window, a small lake about three blocks square.
The weather here is fantastic.

The temperature here never gets above 80 to 85 degrees all summer long, and then for only a couple of hours a day. I have an air conditioner in my RV, and never used it all summer, because there is always such a nice breeze blowing. I just open my door and my windows, and enjoy the fresh air. This is a dry climate, except for the rainy season, which lasts from about mid-June, to mid-September. It is a long rainy season, but nobody complains, because it seldom rains more than a few minutes at a time, and is what helps keep it so cool here. Where I live it is more than 7300 feet above sea level, but it’s far enough south that it seldom gets below freezing. As I am typing this opening installment for my blog, I have the door and windows open in my RV, and the wind is blowing, but when I woke up this morning, my dog’s water bowl outside was frozen completely solid. It is now about 4:00 p.m., and in another hour and a half, it will begin to cool down, and when it cools down here, it happens within a matter of minutes.

In the summer, it always cools off just as soon as the sun goes down, and because of the clear air here--no pollution--and a dry climate, the stars are spectacular at night. I love it here, and will probably move here permanently in a couple of years. I have a property in Tombstone, Arizona, just fifty miles northwest of Douglas, and I will be going back there toward the end of February, to stay about three months.

If anyone who reads this blog, is finding it hard to manage in the U.S. financially, or wants to get away from the high crime rate, or just wants to take an extended vacation and check out a different culture, I would highly recommend this area.

The Mexican people are friendly, helpful, honest, clean, resourceful, and don’t ever expect something for nothing. They are willing to work and will do anything they are paid to do, without complaining. The ones I have met, would help out for nothing, if I asked them. I always pay what I consider a fair wage, for work I need done. The Mexicans are very family-oriented people, and love their children. Most Mexicans are very attractive, but smaller in stature, for the most part, than Americans, who are prone to fat and overeating. Seldom have I seen a fat Mexican. In fact, whenever I see an obese person here, which is seldom, I can be almost certain he or she has come here for the United States. I have yet to meet an impolite Mexican.

The population in this area is primarily Mexican, but there is also a very large community of Mennonites, approximately 25,000, living primarily north of the city of Cuauhtemoc. They are very enterprising, hard working, honest, and for the most part have large families. They are also known as Amish, but unlike the Amish in the U.S., they drive modern vehicles, and live in very comfortable modern houses. Some of their homes are 6000 square feet, or larger. They are mostly farmers, but many of them have businesses north of the city. They use very modern farming techniques, and have all kinds of big farm equipment. Corn, apples, and nuts are the crops that are mostly grown in this area, especially apples. I see apple orchards nearly everywhere I go around Cuauhtemoc.

I live right in the midst of the Mennonite population, approximately ten miles north of Cuauhtemoc. Many of them speak both German and English, as well as the native language, Spanish. In fact, my landlord, the owner of the RV park where I am living, is Mennonite. They are incredibly polite and bring me food and goodies almost every week. They look after me, and I feel very much at home here.

There is also a sizable native population living in Cuauhtemoc, known as the Tarahumara Indians. They are dark skinned, with broad, somewhat flat faces, and are less friendly. They keep pretty much to themselves, but I see them everywhere in this area. The men wear jeans and shirts and hats, in and around Cuauhtemoc, but the women still wear their native dress, which is very colorful and patterned natural fibers. Traditional clothing for women are patterned blouses with loose, three-quarter sleeves, and very full skirts that hand to midway between their knees and ankles. Nearly every Tarahumara woman I see has several children tagging along with them, and the little girls dress just like their mothers. Also, virtually every Tarahumara woman I see, under the age of forty, has a baby which she carries in a long scarf, which is thrown behind her back with the baby cupped inside it. They pull the scarf to the front and secure it someway.

Most people in this area drive modern cars and trucks similar to what I’ve seen in the U.S., and the literacy rate here is 98%! There is a modern hospital here, a woman’s hospital, there are excellent physicians, dentists, and veterinarians, and plenty of attorneys. I will be updating my blog with additional information in the weeks ahead, and if you want to write me for specific information, I will answer it, if I can. If I don’t know the answers, I’ll try to find out, and if I don’t know the answers, and can’t obtain the information you want, I’ll let you know that, too.

If I don’t answer you directly, it will be because the information is in my blog, or in my updates, so look there first. My name is Bonnie, and I love it here. I think you would, too. The three best ways to get here from the states, is to come through El Paso, Texas, cross the border at Juarez and go straight south for almost three hundred miles, on Route 45, a four-lane interstate (a toll road), all the way to Chihuahua. If you want to come to Cuauhtemoc, Route 16 out of Chihuahua, takes you right into Cuauhtemoc, on another four-lane interstate (also a toll road).

Or, you can cross the border at Douglas, into Agua Prieta, like I did, and come through, on the route I traveled, which passes through the towns I named above (there are no tolls on that road, and it is a well engineered, well maintained road, all the way here from the border).

The other way is from Presidio, in west Texas, crossing the border at Ojinaga, Chihuahua, and taking Route 16, a very good road (with no tolls), all the way to Chihuahua, which is about 200 miles from the border. Route 16, runs from Ojinaga, across the border from Presidio, Texas, southwest for about 200 miles, passes through the city of Chihuahua, which is the capital city of the largest state in Mexico, also, called Chihuahua, and continues due west, another sixty miles, to Cuauhtemoc, the city where I live. Route 16 continues west from Cuauhtemoc, into Mexico’s Canyon Country, which begins at Creel, which is a little less than one hundred miles from Cuauhtemoc. Route 16 is a well-engineered, well-maintained, paved road, which continues beyond Canyon Country, all the way to the coast of the Sea of Cortez, which lies between the country of Mexico, and the peninsula, known as Baja California. The section between Chihuahua and Cuauhtemoc is a toll road, what the Mexicans, call their interstate.

The biggest difference in what are called interstates here, and the ones we have in the U.S., is they don’t have entrance and exit ramps here. You simply merge into an extra lane, then work your way into the traffic flow, which is minimal, except near the larger cities. If you want to turn and head back in the direction you just came, or turn off the interstate, there are designated places to do that, called Retournos. And, all you do is signal left, cross the median as designated, then carefully merge into oncoming traffic, going in the opposite direction. There is very little traffic on any of these roads, except between Chihuahua and Cuauhtemoc (population l00,000). I’ve never traveled on that road, which is a continuation of Route 16, from Chihuahua, when there wasn’t a lot of traffic.

In Chihuahua, some of the American branches I have noticed are Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Sears, Auto Zone, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Applebys, Sonic Burger, Pizza Hut, Dominos, KFC, to name a few.

This place is a real find, with a near perfect climate, so unless you prefer smog, crime, high prices, rude drivers, and too many people who want something for nothing, come here for a visit, and give a try to a vacation in northern Mexico. There is plenty to do here, and you won’t be disappointed. There are hotels and motels all over the place. The water here is perfectly safe, and there are many good restaurants. You can even rent movies in English, in video stores, and if you subscribe to satellite TV, there is a lot of American programming. They have price scan checkouts in the stores, and you can use any Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card in ATMs, readily found everywhere you go. You just use it the same way you would in English, expect you get back pesos instead of dollars. The monetary system here is very simple, and easily understood, and many signs and labels are printed both in Spanish and English. You won’t feel much culture shock here. People here love all things American. I see jeans, all kinds of American products, and there are a couple of radio stations with nothing but American music. About half the songs I hear on Mexican radio stations, are American songs, and when I’m in the super-market, I often hear American music. I feel as at home here, as I ever did in the U.S.