Sunset in PV

Sunset in PV

Monday, January 31, 2011

January 24 - 31, 2011 "Going to Mexico"

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A number of our friends and family have expressed concern for our trips SOTB (South of the Border), to Nuevo Progreso, MX. There have also been warnings from the State Department, that travel SOTB may not be safe. I can only speak from personal experience, and say there are certain areas of any metropolitan city in the USA that one should be careful and prudent. I dare to say that ANYONE going into East Los Angeles, at night, flashing large amounts of money, would and could be a target of unscrupulous activity. The same is true SOTB. With that being said, I thought a photo essay of the trip across the border and back might ease some of the concerns our friends and family have for our safety.

Approaching the bridge at 9:30 AM this morning showed very little traffic, pedestrian or auto, in either direction. One thing I did notice was some freshly paved asphalt about 3” thick that had been laid in the southbound lanes, with numerous sensors and cameras surrounding that area. I have heard, but not confirmed, that these sensors, beneath the asphalt can sense the density of steel in any auto or truck, and if that “number” is greater than the manufactures specs, it will trigger a vigorous inspection by Customs and Border Patrol agents, that will assume the vehicle may(?) be trying to smuggle weapons SOTB to aid the drug cartels. Any importation of weapons or ammunition is strictly prohibited, and if caught, can result in long term imprisonment for the perpetrator.

Another set of sensors imbedded can actually track US currency, via the new magnetic strip placed in the currency. It is legal to take up to $10K US SOTB, but it must be declared. Any amount in excess of $10K is strictly prohibited. This action is a joint effort by US and Mexican authorities to prevent US dollars (drug money) from entering Mexico and being turned over to the drug cartels for operational expenses and to purchase illegal weapons. There is a $2 fee for vehicles to cross the bridge. For those that choose to walk across, parking on the US side is available for $2 for an all day pass. (Click on any picture to enlarge)

Pedestrians can cross for only $0.25 by merely placing their quarter in the turnstile, and walking across. There are not inspections or special permits/visas of any kind for pedestrians. If you have the dinero, that is all that is necessary.

The walk across the Rio Grande River is about ¼ mile.

Halfway across the bridge is the “Official” International Border with this sign of recognition.

As you descend into Mexico, there are a few young children and mothers yelling for pedestrians to give them “a nickel”.  Some people do, others don’t. Most of the young children are at the bank side of the bridge and stick their baseball caps between the supports of the bridge in an effort to extrapolate a “donation”.

Upon entering the Immigration and Customs area in Mexico, pedestrians aren’t even noticed. Just walk on through with no questions asked.

Pictured below is our neighbor, Carl, here at the park, with his “Harem” Jane, Carla and CC, at the entrance to Nuevo Progreso, MX.

Within the first block after crossing the bridge, you will notice the presence of the Mexican Military, armed and almost nonchalant about the coming and goings of the gringo’s.

This is the main street of Nuevo Progreso (NP), with numerous shops; mostly dental clinics and pharmacies, general merchandise stores, and restaurants. There is no need to exchange dollars for pesos, as dollars are the preferred currency here. According to long time Winter Texans, the prices in NP are somewhat higher this year when compared to last. There is much speculation, that the increase is due to paying the Cartels to stay out, OR, that many of the businesses are actually owned by the Cartels and they have added about 10-15% to last year’s prices. When we asked a few of the business owners about these theories, they all told us the same story, “NP is too small of a town for the Cartels to be interested in.” The real truth probably lies somewhere in between these theories, but either way, we have never felt threatened in the least.

Mainstream pharmaceuticals are definitely less expensive SOTB; on average about 60-75% less than in the US. Tequila is also a real bargain, as we have seen top quality brands such as Patron Anejo or Gran Centurion Anejo, or any premium Scotch, Gin, Vodka, Canadian, or Burbon, selling for about a third to a forth of their cost north of the border. There is no sales tax in NP, so the price posted is the price paid in stores. Street vendors are, as always, willing to “deal”; and will shout out “almost free today”. Even with the $1.25 per liter the State of Texas charges to import distilled spirits, it makes them a desirable purchase, to consume, or, as we do, give as gifts. (OK, we consume a little, but that’s all).

With shopping done, it’s time for lunch. Prices at most of the restaurants are comparable to the US. The real bargains in NP are at the sidewalk taco vendors, or the smaller cafes scattered around, where two can dine for as little as $5, excluding margaritas, which can be found for as little as $1 each.

As we head north to the border, passing many stores, street vendors, and an occasional beggar, we can see the Mexican Military.

Make sure you have your quarter for the fee to cross the bridge; if not, there are attendants that will make change for you. For those of you driving, the charge for the bridge crossing is $1.95.

This afternoon, we left Mexico about 4 PM, and the foot traffic was almost non-existent.

OK, better have your passports handy as you enter Customs and Immigration, pictured below. This is the only time you will be asked for any identification. The agent will also ask what items you are bringing back that you have to declare. My advice is to be honest, as the alternative may not be pleasant; seizure of item, and/or a hefty fine for trying to smuggle items into the US illegally. I have personally witnessed some that carry liquor across in shopping bags, and do not declare it, thus saving the $1.25 per liter Texas tax. IMHO, $1.25 is not enough to risk the hassle; if you can afford $10 - $30 for a bottle of liquor, you can afford to pay the modest tax.

Well, that’s all folks. You have successfully crossed into Mexico at Nuevo Progreso, and back into the US. You are now able to find you car and drive to the destination of your choice.

Until next time, take care and stay well…………

Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 16 - 23, 2011 "Retired / Retarded Grandparents"

Every once in awhile, we come across something that describes this lifestyle from a different perspective.


Written by a third grader, on what his grandparents do.

After Christmas, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holiday away from school. One child wrote the following:

We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa. They used to live in a big brick house, but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to Arizona . Now they live in a tin box and have rocks painted green to look like grass.

They ride around on their bicycles, and wear name tags, because they don't know who they are anymore. They go to a building called a wreck center, but they must have got it fixed because it is all okay now, they do exercises there, but they don't do them very well.

There is a swimming pool too, but they all jump up and down in it with hats on. At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old man sitting in it. He watches all day so nobody can escape. Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golf carts.

Nobody there cooks, they just eat out. And, they eat the same thing every night - early birds. Some of the people can't get out past the man in the doll house. The ones who do get out, bring food back to the wrecked center for pot luck.

My Grandma says that Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and, says I should work hard so I can be retarded someday too. When I earn my retardment, I want to be the man in the doll house. Then I will let people out, so they can visit their grandchildren.


Until next time, take care and stay well................

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 8 - 15, 2010

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While most of the US is covered in snow and ice, we remain relatively warm in the RGV; relative is the operative word. The weekend of the 8th was sunny and warm, and we spent our usual afternoons at the pool, and evenings in the hot tub. Monday, the 10th was warm and sunny as well. (No pictures this week, as the camera battery needed charging, and we haven't found the charger, YET.......Ahhhhh, the joys of fulltiming)

Since January 1, we have been pot-lucking with a few neighbors here at the park, every evening. Usually dinners are planned at cocktail hour, and it is, “I have some ham”, and someone else adds, “I have some fresh veggies”, followed by, “I can fix scalloped potatoes”, and finally, “I baked a cobbler that I can bring”; as it is said, so it shall be done. I must admit, it sure makes dinner a whole lot easier when you only have to prepare one dish.

Over the weekend, I made a big pot of marinara sauce (secret recipe). We have not made lasagna since we were in the "stix & brix", so CC and I made 2 large ones, 10” x 18”, for our contribution on Monday evening, and the 8 of us only ate one. The remaining one was divided into perfectly sized containers in our freezer, for dinner at a later date.

Tuesday, I felt like the “itsy bitsy spider”; as it turned cold and rainy. We had appointments in Nuevo Progreso for dental exams and cleaning. We bundled up and headed 6 miles south in 45 degree weather. CC and I walked into Universal Dental Clinic, and with no waiting at all, were escorted back to our respective dentists. In about 45 minutes we were on our way, $90 lighter, as I had one cavity filled ($40), and we both had our teeth cleaned ($25 each). Where in the states can you get that kind of service at that price? (Rhetorical question) The answer would be , “Nowhere”. The offices were very clean with modern equipment. I would highly recommend them to anyone in need of dental work.

CC has been fighting a cold since last weekend, and the weather has turned colder, in the 40’s, so we have been like hermits for the latter part of this week, resting and hoping that she can shake it off and not give it to me, as I am less than a joy to be around when sick. (According ONLY to CC, no one else)

After being cooped up like chickens for the past few days, we decided it was time to get out, despite the weather. So, in the rainy cool weather, went to Mercedes, TX for the RV Show being held this weekend. It was smaller than any RV Show we have been to, as there was numerous 5er’s, travel trailers and park models, but only 1 class A. Oh well, it was good to get out and stretch our legs.

CC and I both agree, that even as bad(?) as the weather has been here this week, it is much, much better than the rest of the US; at least we don’t have snow as does all the states but Florida. We’re hoping for warmer, dryer weather this coming week, so that we can once again, live by the 7 second rule.

Until next time, take care and stay well…………….

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 1 - 7, 2011 "Budget 2010 Final Numbers"

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The final numbers are in; our first 6 months of “full timing”, total expenses averaged $3,523 per month. While we certainly didn’t live extravagantly, neither did we live like paupers, and much to my amazement, we were actually $648 per month under budget. When we began this lifestyle in May 2010, I had to “guesstimate” what our expenses would be. I know some full timers spend more, and some spend less. Could we live this lifestyle for $2,500 per month? Absolutely, as there is easily $1,000 per month in “wants”, not “needs”. (Click on image below to enlarge)

New Year’s Day, we were invited by our neighbors, Carl & Carla, to a afternoon feast of black eyed peas and chicken, served over white rice, and sided by coleslaw.  The recipe was developed as a personal gift to Carl by renowned Chef Paul Prudhomme, on their last visit to New Orleans.  Thanks to Carl, Carla, and Paul;  it was outstanding.

Do we really NEED to go to Nuevo Progreso, MX as often as we do? (Rhetorical question- no need to answer).  It is just one of those “wants” we could trim from the budget, but CC enjoys it, and I am in search of the ultimate $2 margarita AND the ultimate lunch under $5. Today’s trip started at Pancho’s for the best $2 “Rita” we have found, but we’re still searching. Then it was across the street to The Iguana House for Progreso style lonches; 5 for $4.99. CC and I split the order and we both left feeling very satisfied.

After lunch we ventured the 6 miles north to our home for the winter, Country Sunshine. The park is starting to fill, and today there were more people in the pool than usual, honing their “Bobbing” technique. Of course, CC and I are newbie’s, and MUST take every opportunity to develop our skills as well, as it was in the 80’s today, and the water was a wonderful 88 degrees.

Since we had a light lunch, we decided to pay a visit to the 6th Street Market, here in Weslaco. The ribeyes looked especially good, and at $8.99 per pound, were reasonably priced. Add a baked potato and a glass of wine, and diner at Chez Sol Crucero was served. Neither of us managed to finish our steak, since we are now on a change of lifestyle and are determined to shed a few LB’s that we have slowly put on while being here.

CC and I are out the door by 7:15 am, and walk for 2 – 3 miles before CC goes to one of her 8:00 am exercise classes. This week she had chair, Zumba, Yoga, and an advanced exercise class at our neighboring park, Southern Comfort. Both RV parks are Encore Properties, so we can take advantage of any activities / amenities provided at either park.

Now I know what you are thinking; not another trip to Nuevo Progreso? You betcha! CC and I just hate to turn down an invitation, and while perfecting our “Bobbing” skills every afternoon in the pool, someone mentions lunch SOTB, that is all it takes; we’re in. Do we look like we’re having fun yet? (Click on the picture to enlarge. Notice how bored to tears everyone looks - NOT)

That sums up our week. We hope yours was as enjoyable as ours. It is predicted that the high today will only be 79, so we may just have to go to the pool. I know, it’s a tough life; so for all you rookies out there, don’t try this at home without adult supervision. Until next time, take care and stay well……