Just another average sunset in paradise!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A dinner invitation

Saturday afternoon my neighbor Brett came by to ask if I would like to join him and Bob and their wives, Sharon and Gloria, for dinner that night.  I quickly accepted even before I learned that the entree for the evening was New York steak.  Naturally, I asked what I could bring and was promptly told that everything was covered.  Being a bachelor, I figured I could at least supply the wine.  Later that afternoon, Brett, Bob and I walked into Aticama where I purchased a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon for 85 pesos ($6.50 US).

While there we had to re-hydrate so we stopped by a favorite restaurant to enjoy a cold bottle of Pacifico while we watched the local fishermen unload the catch of the day.  These are "net" fishermen and they get a lot of fish that are too small to be of any value.  While we were there they filled up 4 milk crates with the throw-backs; carried them down to the rocks on the beach and dumped them.  It only took a few minutes before dozens of frigate birds began to circle, swoop down and make off with a midday snack.  The lazy frigates stayed up in the air and hassled any bird with a fish in its beak until the fish was dropped.  They would grab the dropped fish right out of the air.

Dinner that night included a New York steak cooked to medium-rare perfection; fresh green beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic; stuffed baked potatoes; roasted bell peppers and a wonderful Bearnaise sauce.  The meal was served by candle light with real china, wine glasses and cloth napkins.  I wish I had brought my camera with me because the table was set beautifully!  For dessert, we had flan (Mexican custard pie) which was baked especially for Brett (a diabetic) so it was healthy as well as delicious.

The meal was the equal of a steak dinner at a 5 star restaurant!

My new favorite sunset picture!

Sarah and her black lab friend dancing on the beach at sunset.

Monday night we were down on the beach at sunset.  This one was especially nice so I shot a lot of pictures.  When I got back to Dod and looked at the pictures on my computer, I discovered that I had gotten a lucky shot.  I say lucky because I didn't think any thing besides the sunset was captured.

Monday, January 30, 2012

No mas comojenes (no more termites)

I went up to the house yesterday to do a little work.  Since I am in Mexico, I have to start thinking more like a Mexican.  In planning how to attack the super highways constructed by the termites I thought of what I could buy to do the job.  While cleaning out my utensil drawer in Dod I found an old barbecue cleaning brush and a light went on over my head.  It was perfect for the job!  It has stiff, brass bristles and a steel scraper.

I walked down the beach road and up to the house with nothing in my hands but a barbecue brush.  In less than an hour I had destroyed hundreds of "termite miles" from floor to ceiling.  A quick scrape and then some heavy duty brushing eliminated the highways superstructure.  The surface below, while stained, is ready for a fresh coat of paint.

In my web search, I identified a couple of paint additives that guard against insects and mold.  Mold is always a problem in areas with high humidity.  The problem now is how do I get the product delivered to Mexico.  I am wondering if I can order it from Walmart and have it shipped for free to the Walmart in Tepic or Puerto Vallarta.  It would be great if they could do that and if it works for paint additive there is no telling how many other items I would order that way.  Francisco has given me permission to paint whatever I want and also my choice of colors, as long as they are tropical!  I really like the colors that are there and will probably just try to match the existing colors.

There was another decision to be made:  How to repair the upper 30' of road that is suffering from severe erosion.  The choices were to hire a guy with a backhoe at $450. pesos per hour or hire the caretaker to do the job with a pick ax at $250. pesos per day.  I chose to go with the caretaker as I have seen the work he has done on the lower portion of the road.  Rather than a daily rate, we agreed on $500. pesos for the total job.  With Jesus (the caretaker) working on it I will be able to help and change my mind as we complete the project.  The option of changing my mind seems to have become a necessity in my life.

There is an abundance of wildlife here in the San Blas area.  On the way to the house I spotted this gathering of Pelicans just beyond the surf.  I can't remember ever seeing a gathering this large before.

This tree is adjacent to the cemetery where the trail up to the house begins.  It is a favorite roosting spot for the frigate birds.

When I got to the tree I stopped to take a picture of the house from the beach.

As I was taking the above picture, I heard a big "splat" on the ground right next to my foot.  Then I remembered where I was, looked up and took the picture below.

While relaxing outside Dod, I noticed this dragonfly.  He was working on his tan and would get buzzed by his friends every few minutes.  He would fly off and then return to this exact same spot, time after time.

Sarah enjoys her time in the sun; her time in the shade; her time eating, sleeping and playing.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A shopping trip . . .

Brett and Bob and I piled into Dod for a trip into San Blas (about 10 kilometers).  They needed to pick up the laundry they dropped off the day before and I needed some essential supplies.  I bought 2 bell peppers, 2 onions, 1 pablano pepper, 4 bananas, 4 tomatoes and a bag of tortillas for 80 pesos ($6. US),  I bought a smoked pork chop, a package of turkey wieners, a can of beans and a carton of cottage cheese for 70 pesos ($5. US), I bought 4 great sandwich rolls for 14 pesos (about $1. US).  Then I really got down to business and went to the liquor store.  I was really just window shopping and pricing the different brands and I found something I had never seen before.

Normally, J & B (my favorite scotch) comes in the same bottle but the bottle is a clear dark green.  These bottles had some type of heat-shrink wrap applied before the labels went on.  Same stuff, same price but "Limited Edition".  I had to buy one of each color.  The price for both bottles was 568 pesos or about $42. US which is still less than they would have cost in the USA.  I think they will make great, colorful candle holders!

No trip to San Blas is complete without stopping by the San Blas Social Club.  The owner Augustin is from New York City and is a great host.  If you are new to San Blas, either Augustin or one of the regular patrons can direct you to anything you need.  They are experts on San Blas and surrounding areas.

That's Augustin behind the bar.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

House cleaning

Early yesterday morning (early was 10 am, hey, it’s Mexico) I walked into town to purchase some cleaning supplies.  I bought a bucket, a mop, a broom and some general purpose cleaning liquid.  The total cost was only about $5.00 which surprised me as I was shopping in a “mini-super”.  Mini-supers are very small stores which generally provide only the basics: bread, milk, beer, a few canned goods, paper goods, liquor (in some cases), water, ice, cigarettes and candy.

Just like the US vendors provide signs

There are probably a dozen mini-supers in Aticama and a few specialize in additional items such as deli, produce and meat.  Also, there is competition between some of the stores on the price of beer.  It pays to comparison shop!  When I first arrived I purchased an 8 pack of Pacifico in cans for about $12.00 at the mini-super that is next door to the RV park.  My first trip into Aticama I walked around and priced beer.  I bought a case of 24 cans of Pacifico for 200 pesos ($15.).  I also located a mini-super that sells a case of 24 bottles for only 135 pesos and even though I prefer cans I think at that price I will learn to live with bottles!

Paint by Pacifico on the mini-super Paradaiso

My shopping completed I walked up to the house to do some cleaning.  When I first visited the house, the floor was covered with dust, leaves and droppings that looked like they came from small rats or large mice.  Neighbor Bill talked to one of our neighbors and learned to my relief that the droppings are actually from bats.  Bats don’t present a problem as when the house is semi-occupied they will find a new spot to spend their days.  Bill also told me that at dusk there are hundreds of small bats and many large ones all around the property doing their evening hunting.  As he described them I think the larger ones may be fruit bats.

With the floors cleaned (including the patio), I concentrated on the comojenes (a form of termite).   These little guys start from the ground and work their way up the exterior wall; cross over to an interior wall and continue till they reach the ceiling.  

They make a covered tunnel all along the way that becomes a sort of super- highway.  The first day I was there I demolished a long stretch of the highway but when I returned two days later it had been rebuilt.  Today, I will obliterate the highways from the ground up, spray with some type of poison and then wait to see if they rebuild.  Once they are all gone, it should be easy to keep them away by checking the perimeter walls weekly and nipping it in the bud.  I am also going to do some internet research to see if there are paint additives (or special paints) that will stop the invasion.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Always something happening on the beach

Flyboy Chip lives in the hotel next to El Chaco.  He has a two place ultralight airplane and supplements his income by selling rides.  Some days he will make as many as 4 flights and each time he does he lifts off right in front of Dod.

This was a rushed video but now that I know how to use the camera I will try more and hopefully better videos!


A few days after I shot this video, the plane was parked in a farmer's field about 100 miles north of here, a sudden wind picked the plane up off the ground and slammed it down upside down.  It is destroyed.  While not a total loss, it will take many thousands of dollars to repair as the only surviving parts are the engine and landing gear.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A new home for Dod

Dod moved from his original spot here at El Chaco which was right on the beach but with no shade.  Dod is now in the middle of a palm grove about 70 yards from the beach.  I can find shade easily at any time of day and the inside temperature is 80 degrees at 4 pm where at the old site yesterday it was over 90 inside.

Dod nestled between palm trees next to the river

I am also 200 yards closer to the restrooms and showers and I can get on the internet right from Dod at the new location which means I can watch movies at night on Netflix, write my blog and catch up on the many blogs I follow.

In order to get to this spot I had to navigate an obstacle course of mature and young palms that at times were no more than 9' apart.  Dod is only 7' wide so it was more fun than challenge.  Tioga George came by and tried to figure out how Dod got there.  When I showed him my route he had a look of disbelief on his face!

Obstacle course

View from my new front yard

While I was outside reading on my first day at the new camp I heard a splash and then watched this beautiful yellow bird fly up from the water to sit on this post.  I am thinking it is a kingfisher of some sort; maybe Judy can help.

A forced break from blogging!

I had to take a break from my blog to do some electrical work.  Last night while I was in Dod watching a movie, my neighbor (the one I am sharing power with) used his four slice toaster and the power went off instantly.  I figured it was either a circuit breaker in his rig or a circuit breaker in the restaurant where the power originates.  My nighttime investigation proved fruitless but this morning I discovered that the extension cord from the restaurant to his rig had blown in half where it had been previously patched.  I retrieved my electrical kit from Dod and 15 minutes later we have power again.  There is one more patch on the 100' cord which I will fix later today unless the manana spirit of Mexico overtakes me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Early morning cattle drive

I usually am awake just before sunrise and like nothing better than walking on the beach early in the morning.  The other morning I got this shot of the sunrise just in case readers are betting bored with sunset photos.

During my walk that morning I saw something I have never seen before.  A cattle drive on the beach going right by Dod.

There was one cowboy on foot herding them and the little yellow car was helping.  I can't figure out where they were coming from or where they were going.  The beach road they are on has nowhere to go but right through the main part of Aticama.  Wish I had been there to see that!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sarah is recuperating

Well, Sarah is back from surgery.  We took her in at 8:00 a.m. yesterday and when I went back to get her at 2:00 p.m. she was still out.  They did a mixture of 17 dogs and cats on Saturday at the clinic.  The clinic is just an old 3 bedroom house where they set up temporary OR's.  There was one retired American vet there and one young Mexican vet.  Assisting them were a couple of American volunteers who have retired from careers as RN's.

When I went to pick Sarah up, I was shown to the back patio where I found 4 cats and 8 dogs laid out on mats spread on the lawn.  They were in varying stages of coming out of the anesthesia.  Sarah was laying on her side with her tongue hanging out.  Two of the cats that were neutered were feral cats which were trapped and will be released back into the jungle where they were found.  Kinda cool that this volunteer agency takes care of wild cats also.  They have fiestas on the beach to raise funds and they accept donations at the clinics. Next week there is a chili cook off at Playa Amor.  It costs 150 pesos and includes a great meal.  They sell cerveza and vino at prices you can't beat anywhere.  They also have a plant auction which I will pay close attention to as I begin to decorate the house.

Day after surgery

When Sarah got home she was still walking like she'd just left a bar at closing time.  It took until about 5 pm for her to walk normally.  One thing though, I don't think anyone told her who was responsible for her current discomfort as she will not leave my side.  When I sit in my chair reading, she comes over and lays right on top of my feet.  She is truly a great dog.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More about the house

Went to see the house with George the other day and met my neighbor Bill: super nice guy.  George suggested that we walk up before attempting the drive.  Many of the people here at El Chace have been up to the house and they all said there was no way Dod could make it without the help of a back hoe.  After walking up the road I can understand their concerns.

One of my neighbors (not Bill)

After walking the road I can tell you that I think Dod will make it up without assistance.  The part where most RV climbing attempts fail is nothing compared to some of the places Dod has already been.  However, there is a section of road with gullies 12 to 18" deep.  They run the same way the road does so I want to fill them in before I go up because a broken axle could really spoil my day.

View of house from Bill's roof

View north from patio

If you look closely you can see Ms. Tioga up the beach at El Chaco RV Resort.  It is less than a 15 minute walk from El Chaco to the house.  As  always seems to be the case I take a very long time deciding how to proceed with projects so I have decided to spend a month at El Chaco before moving Dod up to the house.  I don't want to rush anything because I am in a country that never rushes!

There is a perfect place for Dod to park just below the patio where the view from all three rear windows is ocean.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A new girl in my life!

Just one day after arriving at El Chaco RV Resort in Aticama I met a beautiful young lady by the name of Sarah!  She is a natural blonde and petite.  She came right over to me and allowed me to scratch behind her ears.  I think she is a cross between a golden lab and maybe a shepherd.

Two different couples who are camped here asked me if I wanted to adopt her and a couple of days later I made the decision that we were a good pair.  I think she feels the same way as she has spent the past three nights in Dod.  I leave the door open all night and she sleeps in the doorway with her nose pointed out so she can protect me.  She is more affectionate than I would prefer as last night I woke up at midnight from a wonderful dream only to find Sarah licking my ears.

I think Sarah maybe less than one year old and has not had a litter yet and probably never will.  We are going into the village today to a free clinic to get her fixed.  She may hate me at at first but in the long run it will be the best thing for her.

When I got back from my golf trip yesterday, all my friends said that Sarah kept looking around for Dod and did not seem to be quite herself.  I have to admit that after only a few days, I missed her too.

Friday, January 20, 2012

End of an era . . .

Yesterday I had quite a golfing experience.  I drove two new friends I met here in Aticama to Tepic to a local golf club.  Very high end place with tennis courts and swimming pools; restaurants and bars.

The pool area and one of 5 dining spots.

Three of us teed off on the first hole and the fun began.  My friend Bob sliced the ball into some trees down in a gully on the right and my other friend Brett put his shot about 40 yards ahead down into the gully.  My first swing in 6 months worked out okay and I hit the fairway on the left side with a 3 wood about 250 yards out.  While I was standing there waiting to hit my second shot I felt a sharp stab of pain in my abdomen!

My friend Bob's ball came out of the rough as he put it, "a little bit hot". Kind of an understatement.  It hit me about 1" below my lowest right rib.  A foot and a half lower and I would be a eunuch, a foot and a half higher and I would be posting posthumously!  When I lifted my shirt to investigate, I could tell that he was playing a Titlelist Pro-V 1 from the dimple pattern on my stomach.  I walked it off.

My next shot went straight down the fairway on this par 5 and I had about 100 yards in figuring on an easy two putt par.  No way!  I shanked my wedge; chili dipped into a bunker; took two shots to get out and then three putted.  My golf game went downhill from there.

Bob finishing the round by himself.  Notice I am behind him!

Brett had a "tequila" accident a few days ago and tweaked his thumb making it very painful to play.  He retired after 2 holes.  I lasted through 9 holes and tried to remember the last time I had played 9 holes without at least one beer.  Probably never.  Since Brett had only played two holes, the club gave him a golf cart to use for the back nine.  He convinced me to ride with him after the 10th hole and I quit after number 11.

I wish I could blame the injury for my poor performance but it is really just time for me to retire.  I remember when Jack Nicklaus retired and he gave the reason that he didn't want to play if he couldn't be competitive.  I feel the same way and as much as I enjoy the setting and the beer and the camaraderie, I have officially played my last round of golf.

As you know, I very seldom change my mind once I have a plan so the actual probability of me playing again is about 50/50.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What time is it?

Having been without a watch for 7 months there are really only two times for me: daytime and nighttime.   I think I was born with the manana spirit.  Those of you who have followed for only a short time probably realize that it takes me a long time to make decisions.  I plan things and most often deviate from the plan.  My plan today is to walk into town for a couple of things. 

I am still at El Chaco RV Park and the view out my window is of the surf gently rolling in along the curved bay.  The town is in the distance and appears to be just over a mile away.  I love sleepy Mexican villages just as they are awakening.  The first task of the day for the shopkeepers is to sweep the sidewalk in front of their stores and say “buenos dias” to each passerby and wave at most cars that pass as in a town of only1300 everybody knows everybody else.

When I lived in Mexico before they gave me the nickname “Pelon”,  which means bald-headed guy.  For the most part I have been shaving my head for the past 8 years.  I wonder how long it will take to get a nickname here.  It would feel good to hear the shopkeepers call out “Buenos dias pelon”.
For those who may be interested, not only is it T-shirt and shorts weather everyday, it is swim trunks and no shirt for me.  At night the temperature gets to the mid 60s so I can sleep with the windows open while the sound of the surf lulls me to sleep.

My first sunset in Aticama did not disappoint!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

I never figured I would celebrate my 65th birthday, much less in paradise!  But, here I am and celebrating with my new found friends.  Tioga George bought me my birthday breakfast and now I am sitting in the restaurant enjoying a cerveza Pacifico with another new friend, Bob.

Home at last!

My plan for yesterday was to drive from Topolobampo to Mazatlan and spend the night there before heading to Aticama.  Well I have been to Mazatlan several times and I arrived there with plenty of travel time still available for the day.  I bypassed the city and headed for Aticama.

I took both cuota (toll) and libre (free) roads.  The cuota roads are much better and faster but they do not give you the true feeling of traveling in Mexico.  The free roads go through many small villages and that is the part of Mexico I have been missing for a few years.  The scenery changes as you travel south until finally the desert gives way to jungle.  The trip is worth it just for the scenery.

I know I said I would never travel at night but when I reached the outskirts of Tepic, I had only 50 kilometros to go before reaching my final destination so I went for it.  A big mistake but no harm, no foul.  It was Sunday evening and all of the people who had traveled to San Blas to visit the beach were now returning home to Tepic.  The road is narrow, curvy and rough.  Only about every other car dimmed their high beams so it was difficult to see the center line and the line demarcating the right shoulder.  The lanes are probably 10 feet wide but seemed much narrower.

I arrived in Aticama about an hour after dark and stumbled on to El Chaco RV Resort and Hotel.  As I was negotiating the rate for the night, a very familiar gentleman was walking up the road.  None other than Tioga George!  I introduced myself and George invited me to park my Tioga right next to Ms. Tioga.

Dod sure looks tiny, shabby and old parked next to Ms. Tioga, but if you recall, I want Dod to look old and shabby because the last thing I want to generate is attention while in Mexico.  George is going to take me up to the house and introduce me to my neighbor Bill.  I am just dying to see the house in person.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have always wanted to visit Topolobampo just because of the cool name.  It is a tiny little town sitting on a bay on the coast of the Sea of Cortez.  Great fishing abounds and the bay is full of delicious shrimp.  Traveling from Los Mochis to Topolobampo I saw many signs advertising “Ohuira Bay” but none of the signs gave any hint of what it was.

After driving around the town without finding a place to stay, I headed up the hill to investigate Ohuira Bay.  Currently the development is limited to a restaurant right on top of the hill overlooking the harbor and the Sea of Cortez beyond.  It is the first step in a multi-million dollar development which in six years will contain a marina, a five star hotel, a shopping mall and about 100 lots for private homes.  The concept looks great and when and if completed should make Topolobampo a tourist destination.

I parked Dod on the road at the top of the hill right next to the restaurant and asked the parking security guy if I could park there for the night.  He said “sure” and introduced me to the night security guard who guaranteed that I would not be disturbed.  I went to the restaurant and sat on the patio to enjoy a cocktail or two as the sun set.  This was my first good sunset from this Mexico trip and it was glorious.  I am including a couple of pictures but they do not do it justice.  The pictures fail to convey the temperature in the mid 70s or the gentle breeze blowing in off the bay.  They cannot tell how relaxing it was to sit there and listen to soft Latin rock and the happy conversations of the other customers.

The sunset lasted for almost an hour.

I ordered camarones rancheros (shrimp cooked Mexican style) and it was wonderful.  It included rice and broccoli.  There is a picture below and I guarantee you that it tasted even better than it looked.  The service was some of the best I have ever encountered and after dinner the waiter, both security guards and I stood outside talking  for almost an hour with them practicing their English and me practicing mi Espanol.  I have only been back in Mexico for two days but I am feeling right at home already! 

When the restaurant closed, all of the waiters, waitresses, bartenders and cooks came over to Dod for a party.  We had a great time and I now have invitations to visit at least three homes the next time I am back in Topolobampo!

Monday, January 16, 2012


After crossing the border at Nogales and getting Dod and me legal, I drove straight through to Guaymas.  What a great little town!  I pulled into the Hotel Playa de Cortez just after sundown and was able to get a space for the night.

Not only did get a space, I was the only RV there!

After a shower and a cocktail, I wandered into the bar to be greeted by three old guys from the USA who were just finishing their 5th round of margaritas.  After a brief conversation, we seemed like old friends - the old part is definitely right.  While making dinner plans, they suggested that I join them to go into town for a mini fiesta.  Since none of the guys spoke Spanish other than por favor and gracias, I talked to the bartender and got information on where to go.

We had a great evening and night and midnight dinner at Pollo Feliz, the happy chicken.  I don't think the chickens we shared were happy but we sure were with the taste!  

Breakfast the next morning, not too much the worse for wear.

I got an early start on my way to Los Mochis and Topolobampo (I just love that name).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lake Bartlett

Lake Bartlett is a reservoir that sits at about 2000’ elevation surrounded by beautiful “high chaparral” hills dotted with the occasional “saguaro” cactus.  The hills and the cacti overlooking water reminded me of the geography of Baja Sur but instead of the Gulf of California for a backdrop, we only had a small lake.
After an one hour detour due to watching the scenery and not the signs, I pulled into the campground just after sunset to find Christen waiting for me with a great campfire and a huge smile.  Campfire chat and a couple of cocktails ended the day perfectly; a day that started out “not so good”. 

The morning brought a beautiful blue sky and temperatures in the high 70s.  I was glad it was a great day because my plan was to stay only one day and get back on the road to Mexico.  I think plans are overrated, especially mine, as they are so tentative!  What would you do?  I found myself in the perfect campsite, a beautiful view and strictly “Chamber of Commerce” weather with a person whose company I truly enjoy.  I stayed!

One day turned into two and then three and so on until a week had disappeared.  I have had a very eventful and enjoyable life but right in the middle of the week I found myself trying to decide on a day that I had enjoyed more but I couldn’t think of one. 

Another nice thing about Lake Bartlett is that it is practically deserted.  During the week there were no overnight campers just the fishermen who launch their boats right from the beach, fish for awhile, then haul out their boats and head home.  On the weekend there were only a handful of campers and the nearest one to our campsite was at least 50 yards away.

I forgot to mention that this camp is absolutely free but limited to 14 days in a row.  In the week I spent there I never saw a ranger checking license plates to enforce the 14 day rue.  It  has great facilities including flush toilets and running water in the basin.  There are cabana like structures with picnic tables and bar-b-ques under their shade.  There are dumpsters everywhere and the state of Arizona does such a good job of maintaining the facilities, the people who use the facility seem to care more and left each campsite in good condition when they left (much different that my experience at Kern River in California).

Sorry this post is out of order but so am I sometimes!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Actually in Mexico!

I crossed the border at about 10:00 a.m. yesterday with little trouble.  Drove about 300 miles to Guaymas and got lost resulting in a two hour tour of a real Mexican town.  When it got dark, I got serious about finding a place to park and stumbled upon the Playa de Cortez hotel and RV park.  Really expensive for my budget but I was ready to stop.  I met three Americans in the bar and had a great adventure.  More about the border crossing and last night later.  Both good stories!

Desert Center – The rest of the story

I arrived at the cafe less than an hour later, entered and sat at the counter.  It was just the waitress a cook and me; very reminiscent of the opening scene to a “Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits” episode.  I don’t know when the cafe was built but there was an advertising calendar on the wall dated 1934 and from the pictures on the calendar I don’t think much had changed.

The smiling waitress asked me how I was doing and I replied “Not so good right now”.  When I explained my predicament she told me the nearest place to buy transmission fluid was about two miles away.  After telling her I was on foot and had just walked 3 miles she said “No problem.  When my boys get here one of them will take you to the store and then back to your RV”.  I just love small towns!  It was 7:30 a.m. and she told me the store didn’t open until 9:00 a.m. so I ordered breakfast (which was excellent) and passed the time in conversation with Cheryl.  In a very short time I felt like I had known her for years and I learned the sad story of the demise of Desert Center.

Like so many small towns in the middle of nowhere, Desert Center started as a supply town for local industry.  Kaiser Steel had an ore mine a few miles away and the town right on the highway was a perfect location to service the employees and also draw in some highway travelers.  At one time the town included two cafes (strangely next door to each other), a gas station, a 24 hour truck stop, a market, a post office, a hospital and a really good hamburger stand.  The hospital was called the “General Patton Hospital” and was actually the first hospital in the Kaiser Permanente system.

Now, the café and the post office are the only remaining businesses in town and the post office is on shaky ground as it serves less than 200 people who live in and around the town.  Most of the residents work at a nearby prison with the balance commuting to Indio or Blythe which are about 50 miles on either side of Desert Center.  I sure hope what’s left of the town survives!

Cheryl introduced me to each and every regular who stopped by for a cup of coffee and the morning paper and explained my plight.  They were all super nice and sympathetic.  At about 8:30 a.m. Cheryl’s “boys” came in and turned out to be older than I am.  She asked Clyde if he would help me out and got an immediate yes.  The boys invited me to sit with them and we had a great conversation covering everything from Mexico to sand rails.  I think they appreciated having “new blood” to spice up the conversation.  After just a few minutes two tables had been pushed together and our “coffee clatch” had grown to ten or so.
Once the coffee was consumed and paid for four of us got into Clyde’s car and headed up the road to McGoos Market where I purchased the tranny fluid and then back to Dod.  With the help of one of the guys I quickly added 6 quarts of fluid to Dod’s transmission and after about 5 minutes of building up pressure, Dod was as good as new.   I thanked the guys but did not offer any money as I felt it might be an insult.  Instead, I went back to the cafe and gave Cheryl $20. and told her to take $5. out for an additional tip and treat her boys to coffee for as long as the remainder lasted.

I hit the road immediately as I had a date to meet Christen at Bartlett Lake which is about 50 miles north of Phoenix.  I had only about 6 hours to complete the 260 mile trip before darkness.

Tomorrow, Lake Bartlett campground.

Friday, January 13, 2012

At the border!

I am at McDonalds in Nogales, AZ and just about ready to cross the border!  Due to operator error my posts are somewhat out of order but I will try to fix that once I reach Aticama and am hooked up with Banda Ancha internet service.

I am entering Mexico on Friday the 13th!

A long walk in the desert at sunrise . . .

A long walk in the desert at daybreak
Day one on my journey to Mexico ended okay: not good but okay.  The sun was going down and I was still 50 miles from my intended stop in Blythe, CA.  I saw a sign saying “Desert Center next exit”.  Since I remembered stopping at Desert Center many times before I figured it would be a great place to stop for the night so I got off the I-10 and headed north along the only road in town. 
I traveled about 8 miles before I found what I thought was the perfect overnight camping spot.  It was a cross road that I thought would have zero traffic at night.  About 30 minutes after I parked a pickup truck pulled in behind me carrying a security guard who informed me that I was parked on a private road belonging to the Metropolitan Water District and that I would have to leave.  She recommended a dirt road back toward the highway as a good spot to camp for the night.
I headed back toward I-10, located the road and found a good spot about ½ mile down the road.  It was very peaceful and the view was beautiful with a ¾ moon shining on the desert landscape.  I awoke at dawn to a beautiful sunrise and decided to get an early start.  As I made my “Y” turn on the narrow road my adventure began.  I had to put Dod’s front wheels up on a small bump in order to complete the turn.  Apparently when I backed down something caught the transmission cooler line and separated it from the tube leading to the transmission.  Of course I didn’t know what had happened so I just drove down the road.
About 100 yards later Dod had no forward movement: it was just as if the transmission was in neutral and I mean neutral in all gears.  I got out and crawled under Dod to check the linkage, the drive shaft and the differential finding no evident problems.  I took out my cell phone to call AAA and walked to the front end where I noticed a hose hanging down just above a puddle of red fluid.  The transmission was completely drained of fluid.
I set off for town to purchase some fluid and enjoyed a nice 3 mile walk in the desert.  It was quiet and peaceful and the cacti and bushes cast shadows five times their height.  When I arrived in town only one business was open; the Desert Center Café.

Tomorrow, “the rest of the story”.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Today is the day!  I will be pulling out of Bakersfield in less than two hours.  Yesterday Dod got an air suspension system installed.  This new suspension combined with two new tires has made a big difference in Dod's ride.

It is extremely difficult to leave my brother Rick's house as he and his family have been great hosts and I will miss them.  In order to force myself to leave I have made appointments for lunch, dinner and just plain visiting with people from Huntington Beach to Phoenix.

It seems that every time I post my plans here they change and this plan may wind up the same.  My new goal is to be in Aticama no later than Monday.  One reason for this is that there will be a full moon that night.  It might seem silly to push my arrival date to coincide with a full moon but I never said I wasn't silly!

My trip odometer is set to 0, my windows are clean, my tanks are full and I am eager to finally start this new journey.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2nd year without a resolution!

For most of my life I made one or two resolutions on New Year's Eve.  Quitting smoking and drinking only in moderation were almost always on the list.  I was still smoking and drinking so two years ago I decided to resolve to do something that I could accomplish.  On December 31, 2009 I resolved to: 1. Enjoy life, 2. Be happy with what I have and not sad about things I do not have, 3.  Look for the good in everyone, and 4.  Avoid negativity.

The reason I have not made any more resolutions is that I have been very successful in keeping the ones I made in 2009.  I don't know if there is any "cause and effect" as a result of these resolutions but the past two years have been two of the happiest in my life.  Also, once I was happy with what I had good things kept coming my way.  Dod and our new home  base in Aticama are two major good things but I think the best things are the people I have met and the relationships that have been built.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!