Monday, December 12, 2005

Nogales Border Crossing - Truck Route

Nogales Crossing - Truck Route
I came into Nogales late afternoon from El Centro California and decided to overnight there and start into Mexico early. Fotos except the last are in the afternoon. Lots of motels at that exit if you choose to stay over ... and last minute shopping.

You can read and see more of my activities on the web site below

Exit Ramp to truck route

Border crossing the next morning

"Kilometer 21" - Mexican Immigration Nogales
What nobody mentions is that Nogales is 4 thousand feet elevation and in the winter often very cold. It was in the mid-30's at 7am (early December) and I'd suggest not standing in line in shorts and a tee-shirt. I've heard stories of long waits for your car permits (banjercito) but it took me less than a 1/2 hour

Immigration offices from the parking lot

The banjercito windows for vehicle permits

The banjercito windows. There's a sign (the red one) telling you what number they are serving - but no place to get a number. Luckily I walked into the top of the stairs and was next in line. Remember - copies of your Passport, Drivers License, Vehicle Registration and Tourist Visa. You can throw in a copy of your Title but it's not necessary. Have your Credit Card ready.

Just past this building there is a guard gate that will take a quick look at you as you drive past. If you have the window sticker they just wave you through. Not sure how they handle 'Sonora Only' permits.

It's not for another 6-8-10(?) miles until you run into Mexican Aduana (Customs). This is where they look into your car if you get the Red Light as you cross over the metal strip. The sign says STOP and all the agents were getting warm inside the office -- so I just proceeded slowly -- got the Red Light -- and pulled into the first inspection lane. The agent gave me big smile, said good morning, waited until I opened the rear door (my van), asked what's in that box -- and said goodbye.

Very easy and smooth.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

December 3rd and headed south to Mexico

December 3rd - I just have to head south after visiting friends and family in Seattle for over a month. I hope this is the last snow the Red Car sees in quite awhile. Hitting the road in a few hours and hope to get away from rain/snow before Portland.
What are my chances

December 4th - I'm in Lost Hills California ... somewhere north of Bakerfield along I-5. Found a Days Inn with a good wireless signal. The Super 8 in Medford last night I wasn't able to connect to. Now I'm not sure if it was my configuration or the signal. Here I needed to let them manage and not use Windows wireless manager. Anyway ... should be in San Diego tomorrow ... for maybe two days. Then on to Tucson before crossing at Nogales.

December 5th - Picked up my Tourist Visa (prepay) at Discover Baja Travel Club in San Diego, checked out a few of my old hangouts, watched some parasail-surfers in Pacific Beach ... and headed for El Centro where I stayed in the Howard Johnson - with good internet.

December 6th - Stayed over night in Nogales on the American side - Super 8 with no internet. All of Nogales is pretty basic so don't expect much. It is good for last minute shopping. On to the next BLOG and crossing the border.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Driving the Michoacan Coast

This is about the drive from Cuernavaca over to the coast bypassing Acapulco with the intention of over-nighting in Zihuatanejo. To my surprise Zihuatanejo was/is just another large, well (over) developed beach town like Vallarta. Manzanillo is just as interesting and attractive and probably cheaper - sorry you Zihua fans.

Soooo.... I just made a quick loop around town and headed for Playa Azul which is only about 2 hours north. At least Playa Azul is a reasonably sized (small) beach town but it's also tired and just about vacant during the week during the summer. Really nothing to take a picture of in the way of a beach or town. There are a few nice hotels and a beach full of palapa restaurants. I stayed at the Hotel María Teresa with parking, a restaurant and a pool that was not clean enough to swim - $420mx.

Anyway next comes the best part - Caleta de Campos and the Michoacan coast. These fotos are more-or-less in order heading north ... but I'm not going to be able to remember all (many) of the names because they don't show on my maps. (They are in the Pacific Mexico Handbook by Bruce Wipperman). The slowest going along the road is north of Caleta de Campos, not due to bad road conditions, but because of the twists and turns along the sides of the mountains. The road is usually safely wide enough in the critical sections but you're often not able to get rolling over 40 MPH. At times the small white and yellow butterflies were so thick it was like driving in snow.

Getting close to the state of Colima there are some little tourist boom towns with construction going on everywhere ... but still very small and tranquillo.

Now I'm back in Melaque
Drive times were
Cuernavaca -> Acapulco - 3 hours (Cuota cost $45us +/-)
Acapulco -> Playa Azul - 6 hours
Playa Azul -> Melaque - 8 hours (Cuota cost $15 +/-)

You can read and see more of my activities on the web site below.
sparks-mexico web

Michoacan Coast Hyway - Curves in other parts do get exciting

Caleta de Campos


Michoacan Coast

Michoacan Coast

Monday, September 19, 2005

Cuernavaca - City of Eternal Spring

Well another month of Spanish language school at Encuentros and I'm sure I know more but damned if I can tell. Got an apartment for around $300us, had some great young neighbors, played a little music, drank a few Victorias and drove to a number of places close by ... including Tepoztlán, Taxco, Mexico city and a Balneario (spa). I left Cuernavaca around the 1st of September.

You can read and see more of my activities in the Cuernavaca area on the web site below.
sparks-mexico web

Cuernavaca is a modern and busy city


Apartment patio with music, food and beer

Part of the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño in Mexico City. Best of the three Museums we went to that day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Through Patzcuaro and on to Cuernavaca

Just didn't seem to have time in Patzcuaro to update this Blog along with the web site and studying Spanish. Now I've continued on to Cuernavaca and started another school this week. Should be here for a month before returning to Melaque ... on the way back north. I'll break out my camera and take a few trips here pretty soon

You can read and see my activities in the Patzcuaro area on the web site below.
sparks-mexico web

Tzintzuntzan Sunday Market near Patzcuaro

Monday, July 04, 2005

Santa Maria del Oro - Jalisco - Lost in Mexico

Take a wrong turn in Mexico with a terrible map and this is what you might run into. Santa Maria del Oro - in the southern section of Jalisco. I was headed from Mazamitla in Jalisco to Los Reyes in Michoacan.

A number of friends were looking for the route I followed on good maps but nothing really close was found. This government web site had the best info and also shows that Santa Maria was recently called Manuel M. Diéguez.

El municipio de Santa María del Oro

Valle de Juárez in Jalisco (near Mazamitla) is where I started on my way to Los Reyes in Michoacan - thinking there was a decent road between the two. Actually I had a lousy map and was totally lost. Anyway, up and over the mountains I went on a paved but very steep and winding road. As I came down the other side I saw my first view of Santa Maria del Oro - which is essentially the end of the road. Santa Maria is just about the friendliest town I've run into in Mexico. The first night I was invited to a fiesta of nearly 100 people (primary school graduation) and the second night invited to dinner with a young family (the horseman below).

There were lots of little pueblos, ranchitos and farms beyond Santa Maria that I didn´t take pictures of because I didn´t want to be driving in the dark and I hadn't made contact with the locals. Taking fotos of small places that you zoom thru is like eating and running

My first view of Santa Maria as I came down the mountain.

The main street thru town is mostly one direction at a time. There are very few side streets in this little hillside town of a few 1000 people.

Looking down on almost half the town.

The local corner hangout for Coke, beer and important small talk. The guy on the horse invited me home with him for dinner with wife and baby.

Another supposedly 'end of road' town - La Aurora - but I pressed on

One of the two major bridges I crossed and a little of the road I traveled behind and to the left.

This is the valley-gorge that was crossed by the second bridge.

After many ranchitos, pueblocitos, rough roads and some close calls - I finally came in the back way to Los Reyes. A great and kinda crazy experience. I'm sure if someone else was with me I would have been talked out of it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A People Day at Tenacatita, Jalisco Mexico

A people day at Tenacatita

Friday June 24th
Denis, my neighbor, had not been to Tenacatita or La Manzanilla and it had been a month for me. Surprisingly busy for a summer Friday with a few bus loads of weekend tourists. Humidity was up as well as the waves. I walked up on the bluff between the main beach and the snorkeling beach (fotos) and noticed huge waves breaking on the beach just north of us. We took a palm grove road on the way out and found an empty and exciting beach - dangerous waves and currents.

Tenacatita Beach from the bluff

Mexicans sure know how to play in the surf

... and play on the beach

Below is the exciting beach just north of Tenacatita

Jania and Marcos

Link to more fotos of the day

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Melaque Wild and Plant life

We just had the first rain of the year - just enough to turn the dust on my car into mud. Still it was quite exciting and means the rains will soon be here.

There is lots of wildlife around the lagoon and we are constantly entertained by it. This green Iguana lives on/in the wall next door - one of the first green ones I've seen. There are actually more of the gray kind here.

Tons of birds (hope to get a few fotos), Caiman (cocodrillos), squirrels, fireflies (truly amazing), mosquitoes, ants and flies are coming into season. I've assured Denis that the Gekos don't grow into Iguanas and then into Crocodiles ... but we haven't seen proof yet.

Our green dude


Both fotos (above and below) of blossoms above are on a Tamarind tree (I was corrected and the tree is a Poinciana - Tabachin or Framboyan in Spanish. It's in the Tamarind family and is supposed to bloom just before the hot season.)


Bananas that are not getting sweet before they go bad. Any ideas?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Kayaking in Melaque Mexico

Really glad I brought the kayak down even though I'll only use it for these two months here. I've been leaving the kayak at Shoe's house a block from the calmer end of the beach. I'll probably leave the kayak here and just use it when I visit from inland .... which better be often

These two fotos were taken by Shoe. Just paddling around and getting over a very small set of waves. A large wave can turn a kayak into a bathtub real quick. Those sit-on-top kayaks have an advantage but they are not as light or easy to paddle as this one.

Below is the car and kayak before leaving Seattle. I had plastic taped (duct) over the opening to keep out the rain .... but I've not seen rain since April first (between Seattle and Mexico).


Below at the La Paz ferry dock getting ready to buy tickets and importation papers for the car. The ticket office is behind the pickup truck .... and immigration is behind my car.

So I've had the kayak over to Cuastecomates - a nice bay just over the hill from Melaque. Better get there early because the wind usually comes up around noon developing quite a chop.

The shore along the new Malecon in Melaque is nice because it's protected from the wind .... and the rocks at the opening of the bay are wild and crazy and interesting if you don't get too close.

The best and most relaxing 'paddle' was in the lagoon behind Barra de Navidad. It's totally protected, combination of civilization and nature, you can stop for food/beer, get off on a distant sand bar and take a piss .... or even head out the channel and look sideways at the surf in Barra. There are really miles and miles to paddle back there and most quite calm.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Baja Ferries - La Paz to Mainland Mexico

This is the latest Info from the Baja Ferries Web Site

Please remember this is second hand information - but it's a long drive to not be able to use the ferry
News Flash 1 - The Ferry to Topolompampo is reportedly closed for repairs mid-February til approx. the end of March 2006. No news on the La Paz to Mazatlan run.
News Flash 2 - I read in the Sudcaliforniano that the ferry to Mazatlan will still be in service. What I did not understand was whether it would still travel on same days.
The ferry boat to Topo is going to Panama, to be 'tuned up'.
Also, I believe the paper said that for people wanting to go to Topo, Baja Ferries would transport them to Mazatlan by ferry and then bus them to Topo, all for $800 pesos

Baja Ferry in La Paz Harbor

Baja Ferries has taken over the Mazatlan to La Paz route from Grupo Sematur ... at least for the time being. This happended as of the end of April 2005. The following is the current information on schedules and prices.

Topolombampo to La Paz
Topolombampo - LaPaz .... Leaves Monday-Friday at 3pm from LaPaz. Saturday leaves late in the evening (10-11pm). From Los Moches to LaPaz it leaves late in the evening 11pm-1am week days only.
Topolombampo - LaPaz .... Auto fare 970mx. Passenger fare 650mx - Tourista, 760mx - Cabina

Mazatlan to La Paz
It leaves from each end at 5pm (1700). Leaves La Paz Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Leaves Mazatlan Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Auto fare (normal size) 1700mx. 3 options on passenger fare (required above/beyond auto fare) 250mx - Turista, 400 - Cabina, 700 - Salon.

Auto importation to Mexico
If you don't have the importation papers for your car you can get them at the ferry terminal for about 335mx. You need credit card, auto title (not sure about this but they asked for it), auto registration, drivers licence and passport. Make 2-3 copies of all of them

Here are some fotos of the trip down
Baja Ferry, Mazatlan, La Paz
The New Baja Ferries Web Site

Saturday, May 14, 2005

OK - So I`m gone and here

Sorry not to have updated but you know how it goes

I left Seattle the 1st of April, three days to San Diego, stayed in SD for three days, crossed the border and made La Paz in three days. Was going to camp and see more of Baja but nobody else was on the beaches and I felt like I wanted people around for information and company.

Took the ferry (Baja Ferries) to Topolombabpo and had to overnight in Los Moches. A five hour drive from there to Mazatlan the next morning. Stayed in Mazatlan for a week and a half to check it out and recover from a sinus infection. One day south to Chamala staying over night and then one day south to Puerto Vallarta where I stayed for two days and visited with JR.

Mazatlan was busy, rather arid and no easy access to Spanish schools so I decided to head further south. Vallarta is prettier but also busy so I decided to head for Melaque, my old home town.

Been very happy here so far, found a Spanish tutor and kayaking is good. May head inland to the highlands at the end of June.

Have not seen rain since I left Seattle so must be due for a good one sometime soon.

Take care ya`ll

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Where am I now

Still in Seattle with about two weeks to go

The weather has been warm and sunny
The power went out on Sunday for 4 hours
Power out again last night for - I don't know how long - went to bed
Woke this morning to no hot water - 10am still none

Somebody is preparing me for Mexico I know
Life is good

Friday, January 28, 2005

What's up with my retirement

What's up with my retirement

The good part ....

  • To be able to get away from a job that required stifling the most important half of yourself for security's sake.
  • If there's any truth to the saying "You are measured by the company you keep", the door is open once again.
  • A chance to think and dream freely if you have any of those molecules left in your/my body.
  • It's like returning home because you've been wounded in Vietnam.
  • The only absolute project is getting used to living on a more modest budget.
  • A chance to share Mexico with friends and relatives when they choose to visit.

The bad part ....

  • Nobody else is retiring at the same time you/I are/am.
  • Life/living changes can mean moving away from friends and family.
  • Family responsibilities that you took for granted have to be re-evaluated if you move.
  • This is a sure sign that I won't live forever.
  • The paycheck is a whole lot smaller unless you've made some really good moves along the way - and spend a lot of time doing it (seems like I did).

I think the positive wins so far .... hey !

the way we live - the way we die - the wave hello - the wave goodbye
life's a beach - [Jump Tomorrow - movie]
Off to Mexico

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Oops, I Forgot to Save for Retirement!

By Robert Brokamp (TMF Bro)
January 13, 2005

Maybe you cared more about Woodstock than shares of stock. Perhaps you spent more time on disco than on Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO). Or it could be that you kept a better eye on your favorite VJ at MTV than on your 401(k).

Whatever the reason, you have put off saving for your retirement -- until now. But now, you worry that it's too late. You worry that you'll never amass enough money. You fret that your retirement dreams will stay just dreams.

If that's you, then I have something to tell you (put your ear close to your monitor so you can hear it loud and clear):

It's not too late!

Regardless of your age, regardless of your income, regardless of your hair count, it is not too late to plan for retirement and make your future more comfortable. Here are three ways to get your retirement plan rolling (then stay tuned for a way to get eight more ways to supercharge your retirement).

1. Save like mad.
Want a half-million dollars? Sure you do. Think it's too late to have that much before you retire? Perhaps not. Start saving $1,000 a month right now, and in 20 years you could have a portfolio worth more than $500,000, assuming you earn an average annual return of 8%.

Don't think you can save that much? You might be wrong, and here's why: Saving $1,000 doesn't necessarily mean you have to cut your spending by that much. If you contribute to a tax-advantaged retirement account -- such as a 401(k), 403(b), 457, or other employer-sponsored plan -- every dollar you contribute reduces your taxes since contributions are essentially tax-deductible. So if you're in the 25% tax bracket, for example, a dollar deposited in your retirement plan cuts your tax bill by 25 cents. Put another way, you have to reduce your spending by only 75 cents to save a buck.

And the news gets even better if your employer matches your contributions. To add $1,000 a month to your account, you may have to contribute only $500 to $700 (depending on the matching formula), and your employer makes up the difference.

2. Spend smart.
So where are you going to get that extra money? You are going to stop spending money on things that are not very important to you. You are going to get super-basic cable -- or cancel cable altogether -- instead of paying $70 a month for 300 channels you never watch. You are going to cancel that gym membership you never use. You are going to bring your lunch to work, stop buying beverages that are too sugary and expensive, and stop smoking. You are going to call around to see whether you can get better deals on your home and car insurance. You are going to get videos from the library for free instead of from Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI) or Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX). You are going to cancel the cell phone service that isn't worth $80 a month (almost $1,000 a year!). You are going to have picnic dinners by the lake or on the beach instead of going to Outback (NYSE: OSI).

There are hundreds of ways to reduce your spending without significantly reducing your quality of life. Some you might not want to give up -- maybe you think your Sirius (Nasdaq: SIRI) or XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR) is just too important to your well-being. Fine. You make the choice. But I can guarantee you that if you look at where every one of your dollars goes, you'll find expenditures that could just have easily been savings without changing the quality of your current life. So act now to improve the quality of your future life by spending smart. Even investing $500 a month for 20 years could result in almost $300,000 of retirement potential. Just start saving!

3. Choose a better life.
If you're thinking about retirement, it might be because you don't like your current job. Yet the fact is that if you haven't saved much, then you will have to keep working for a while. So why not consider a career change? Unless your lifelong ambition is to be the next NFL Rookie of the Year or Britney Spears, it's not too late to be what you want when you grow up. Most professions don't have age restrictions, and anyone can go back to college and earn a degree.

Don't just think about how you'll retire, but consider what you want to do with the rest of your life. Is there a job you always wanted to try? A business you always wanted to start? A hobby you could turn into at least supplemental income (which could become additional savings)? Really, if the prospect of working for another 10 to 20 years gives you the heebie-jeebies, spend a few minutes thinking about what kind of work you'd actually enjoy. Go ahead, we'll wait.

[Tap, tap, tap...]



OK, have some ideas? Good. Spend some time this weekend investigating what it takes to get that kind of work. And while you're at it, look for employers that offer the best benefits -- a retirement plan match, tuition reimbursement, perhaps a traditional pension, maybe even health care for retirees.

Putting it all together
Even if you can't save $1,000 a month, or if you can't bear the thought of working another 20 years, it's not too late to improve your situation. Saving what you can right now, and combining the eventual income your portfolio will provide with Social Security and maybe a pension, could allow you to retire part time. And that is a lot better than having to work full time forever.

Robert Brokamp, who unfortunately wasn't at Woodstock but does know something about disco and MTV (back when it played music videos), is the editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. He owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.
The construction of the house finished in April 2011 and I'm pretty much settled in. As of March 2014 I'm in preparation for rain mode for this coming summer. That includes sealing and painting things and dealing with drainage issues from last year.

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