I Can Get A Lot Done in a Morning

It was a cold night, just below freezing. I was grateful to be able to turn on my mattress warmer in the wee hours of the morning. Then, around 6:00, my furnace kicked on (thanks to my programmable thermostat) to warm up the rig to an acceptable temperature when I was finally ready to crawl out of my warm cocoon.

This awaited me outside!



Notice, it’s just in the shade, but I still had snow on the truck when I left for town around nine.

First stop in town was the RCMP detachment to drop off my victim impact statement. Then, I went to a photography studio to have my passport picture taken. Might as well take advantage of my otherwise unnecessary trip into town and get my passport application sent off! I can’t buy a plane ticket until I have my new passport so this needed to be done ASAP.

I had my paperwork all filled out so I was able to go straight from the studio to the post office. $20 for the picture, $22 to XPress post the application to Canada, and something like $160 for a 10-year passport. Thank goodness we have a 10-year option now!!! And the renewal process is so easy. Nice to see one Government of Canada department improving its efficiency. My passport actually doesn’t expire till next March, so I’m kind of “wasting” nearly a year, but with most countries not granting entry unless your passport is good for at least six months beyond your entry, I would have been limited as to where I could go in Europe and forced to come back by March. Brr!

Then, I made a couple of stops. I went to The Bargain! Shop for household things — hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent, as well as to check out the clothes. I’m looking for a particular skirt style for my upcoming travels and they get out of season things from good brands, so it’s worth having a peek every now in then to see if they’re carrying any treasures.

I then went to the Salvation Army to do the same thing and also see if they’d brought their prices back down to more reasonable levels. Almost. Not as good as it used to be, but I would shop there again. They had tons of nice handbags and I caved and bought a gorgeous quilted tote with handy pockets in it. I just can’t resist a unique bag…

Next stop was the grocery store, where spent a whopping $20 on produce — a bag of onions, a bunch of bananas, four pink lady apples, two nectarines, a bag of satsumas, and a red pepper that was almost $3. Wow. The store was really chaotic and dusty as they’re laying down the flooring (tiles), with half the produce at one end of the store and the other half on the other side of the store. Most of the meat aisle was inaccessible. I can’t wait for them to be done, especially since I don’t see any real improvements being made. We didn’t need a shiny new store with new coolers. We needed more space…

Finally, I popped into the bakery for a coffee and bun to go because I was feeling a little faint. The bakery’s a little pricy, but it’s a nice treat now and then.

I got in just before twelve. Now, lunch and then I really need to get to work!

Unpacking Is a Chore

I awoke to sunshine at 6:15 this morning. I really don’t remember mornings here been so bright! I thought I might be able to go back to sleep, but was not able to. I read for a bit until the call of breakfast was too loud to ignore. Interestingly enough, I’d been up over an hour and awake for nearly two before I even thought of having coffee!

After a lazy couple of hours doing a more thorough sort of the mail, I finally dressed and started to bring things in from the truck, unpacking as I went along. I never think that I picked up much extra stuff during my travels until I found myself at a loss as to where to put everything when I get home! But I finally got things under control (nowhere near done) and was able to head to town to get groceries.

The road out to highway 2 was the best I can ever remember it being, with only one or two serious potholes, so the drive went quickly. My first stop was the carwash to fill one of my five gallon jugs with potable water. Thankfully C&C had warned me that there is no water filling at the grocery store right now since the renovations are still ongoing and that the carwash was the place to go. I was not impressed with the carwash station since it does not fill the jugs completely.

I ran a couple more errands and then went into the grocery store. It was a mess. I’m disappointed that so far all the upgrades are cosmetic. There sure isn’t any extra space! Prices were dire, but I shopped the sales and actually had something to show for my $125 (including quite a bit of meat). Kale was on sale, so I’ll be having quite a lot of that in the next week!

Back home, I was able to put together a nice lunch even with the kitchen being only half unpacked, then I headed to C&C’s to get non-potable water for doing dishes and washing myself. Charles was on his way over to my place to level Miranda, so he helped me with the water and then we headed back to Haven with Brutus in tow (he’s so shaggy he looks like a bear!).

It took quite a bit of doing, including two trips back to his house by Charles for different jacks and some tool fetching on my part, for Charles to get Miranda level for me. Even though the gravel is hard packed now, he could only lift Miranda so high before the jack would sink into the ground. He finally got her up using two jacks. She’ll stay on them for the time being, with a large log under the frame also holding some of the weight, but Charles intends to get a different type of jack and some blocks to do a more permanent job. Miranda has been unlevel for so long that it feels strange to have her level! When I moved her last year, I should have brought her west a little bit and out of the dip her left driver’s side tire is in. Live and learn…

After he was done, he graciously helped me get my swing out of the shed and set up. The weather is so unseasonably warm that I know I’ll use it all of this month as well as through June and so it’s worth setting up. Then, I offered him one of my last two Pacificos!

The beer pretty much knocked me flat, so I spent quite a bit of time in the swing, enjoying my view and the fact that I have internet in the yard now!

Then, it was time to deal with the kitchen so I could make dinner. I’m nowhere near done, but I was able to make brown rice, caramalised onions and Brussels sprouts, chicken, and gravy — even if I had about as much energy as it takes to open up a tin of beans and eat them cold! 😀 But the effort was worth it! Fortified by my yummy dinner, I did a clothes putting away blitz and then set up my office since I have a medium-sized job due Monday night that I’m hoping to start on tomorrow.

As promised yesterday, here are some pictures of the door damage. It’s hard to see because of the black on black. Charles is certain the damage was not there when he came by on the 27th and so this would mean the attempted break-in occurred while the neighbour is out on bail…

In this picture, you can see the gap between the door and the frame, as well as scratches and the torn rubber gasket. The door is bulging outwards.


The door bulge is more visible in this one. The scratches betray the amount of effort made to get in. I’m happy to know my deadbolt and frame are that good!


And here’s the damage to the frame:


Finally, all the nasty haze during the day is so worth it in the evening…


Many Steps

I was a woman on a mission today! I’ve wanted to get a Dutch oven (casserole dish with tight fitting lid that goes from the stovetop to the oven) for ages and ages and ages and decided that I would get one for this year’s Yule present to myself. I wasn’t too fussy on whether I got cast iron or enameled cast iron, but I wanted something decent. Soriana has little enameled Crockpot brand Dutch ovens for about $850, so that was my starting off point. They were just too small, but at least I knew that I could get a Dutch oven in this city.

So today’s plan was to hit a Walmart, a Ley, and Mega to see what they might stock in this area. I had also checked a kitchen supply store in Juárez the other day. Part of the urgency is that I plan to cook a ham for a potluck next week!

Since I also wanted to go to the bank and Waldo’s, it made sense to go to the ‘old’ Walmart on Carretera Internacional, which would give me a chance to try out the Ley in the El Mar Plaza (as opposed to the Ley across from the Waldo’s on Ejercito Mexicano, which becomes Carretera Internacional). If neither had what I wanted, I could then either hoof it or grab a bus to go to Mega. If I struck out at Mega, I could then double back to Soriana. Here’s a map of my day:


I had a wee bit of work to do this morning, then I headed out. I stopped at our new Isla bakery and got a big cinnamony bun as a late breakfast. Very yummy and not absurdly sweet. It’s great that we have a bakery now!

The Baja Ferry was in port:


I did what I needed at the bank, then crossed over to Waldo’s where a contender for the world’s crankiest woman was ahead of me in line.

After that, I had quite a hike ahead of me, but it was nice to be going into an area where I’ve never walked before, although I have driven. I found this sign shortly after Waldo’s:


It’s pleading (successfully!) with youth to not graffiti the walls.

This was my second time in as many years going to a Walmart here and the last. They really don’t carry much! The kitchenwares section was abysmal. The only thing that made the effort of going there worthwhile was that I found a new ‘ballistic’ screen cover for my iPhone for only $99. The screen cover that came with my case was really badly scratched and it took a friend with a cover by the same manufacturer to convince me that I could pop out the scratched cover without otherwise damaging the case. I can’t believe it took me so long to do this. What a difference!

Walmart is Walmart no matter where you go and there are never sufficient cashiers. So I had a chance to get a picture of this while waiting in line:


I buy those exact same pistachios at the Co-Op in Assiniboia for about 8CAD a bag. These are about 3CAD a bag.

Ley wound up being a bust and I was pretty tired by the time I’d circled the store. Walking to Mega was out of the question, so I hoped I wouldn’t have to wait too long for a bus. Well, I got to the bus stop just as the very bus I needed was pulling up! I took that as a good sign!

I was peckish by the time I got to Mega since I’d been out of the heat for a bit so I grabbed a slice of pizza. I officially declare that I love Rin Rin pizza!

My first survey of the kitchenwares department at Mega was disappointing, just the same very low quality enameled pots I saw at Ley and Walmart. But something told me to have a closer look and I struck gold on a bottom shelf — a Gibson-brand cast iron Dutch oven in the perfect size!

Here it is in use and already covered with fingerprints! 🙂


The best part? It was a mere $500!!!!!!!!!

Next, I decided to scope out ham. Well, this is where my day got interesting. As it turns out, you can get a whole ham here to bake or boil, like we do in Canada and the US, but for some reason, they don’t call it jamón. That’s reserved for lunchmeat. The whole ham is called pierna ahumada (literally, smoked leg). I had a chance to sample some that was cooked and it is definitely ham like we get back home. Mega wanted a whopping $500 pesos for a small one! Their prices, especially for meat, are insane, so I didn’t buy one. But now I know what to look for when I go to Ley next week.

I did a bit more shopping (and was irked that they didn’t have hummus!), then I headed out to get a taxi. Up until very recently, I would have thought that I snagged a pulmonía, but I’ve now learned that the open air taxis here that have doors are not pulmonías!

The driver took a really bizarre route to get to the embarcadero, including taking Avenida del Mar (lovely; I got to look at the ocean!), but he went out of his way and made the trip a lot longer than it needed to be. I almost felt like giving him directions! And, yes, he charged me the normal price of $60, so it’s not like he was trying to squeeze more money out of me!

On this side, I made the mistake of thinking my bags weren’t too heavy, but by the time I was halfway home, I was seriously thinking of stashing one and coming back for it later. Luckily, I ran into reader Michael, who bundled the heavier bag onto his bike and dropped it off at my place for me. Thank you again!

I got in and put together a semblance of a beef stew, something I’ve never done. This is an in between picture, with the onions and beef nearly cooked, but the veggies just starting. I added green beans near the end.


I didn’t have anything to make a rich brown gravy or any turnips for flavour, but the test taste was satisfactory! I love how the beef is sold here, in very thin strips, so you don’t get these huge chunks that roil around in your mouth. I found the hamburger was outrageously priced at Mega, but was very happy with how much I got for the $60 pesos I paid for this ‘sirloin’ (as per my translating app).

My favourite thing at Mega is the bread, it’s just better than that at the Soriana and Ley bakeries. I really do try to watch my bread consumption, but I always come home from Mega with a load of pumpernickel and a loaf of raisin bread! I also picked up some buns (bolillos) today to mop up the gravy from my stew!

It was a very, very, very, very full day. But I’m glad I did all that walking since I’ll be typing all weekend!

Also, any day here that ends with me wiped, but still eager to cook is a magical one!  I joked a lot about not planning to cook this winter but, surprise, eating out tons got old pretty fast! I’ll be glad to have stew to get me through the next couple of days, but I did promise Patti that I’d stop by for an enchilada brunch tomorrow or Sunday!

What a Difference a Year Makes (Or Nogales to San Carlos, Redux)

I am very amused (but touched!) by the comments I got last night and this morning attempting to destress me about the border crossing today. If, on a scale of one to ten, one is driving from Haven to Assiniboia and ten is that bad feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that I should not hit the road, I was at a solid three last night and this morning. As a point of comparison, I’m at a two most travel mornings, unless I’m going to hit big city traffic (Montreal usually warrants an eight) or my budget is too tight to truly absorb something unexpected. I’d say I was at a seven last year. So I really wasn’t stressed out about today. 🙂

I tried to delay bedtime so I wouldn’t be up insanely early today, but I was out by 8:30 and awake around 4:40. *sighs* But I was in no rush, so I dozed until about 5:45 (how luxurious!). I’d done most of my packing last night, so I had just a few things to do this morning. I brought a load down to the truck, then went to the restaurant for breakfast. It was enchilada casserole with refried beans again, which suited me just fine. I also had fruit salad and just one cup of coffee since my bladder hates me! 😀

I’d filled out the comment card and it said to please drop it off at the front desk rather than leave it in the room, so I did that after leaving $5 for housekeeping as well as a very tidy room. Having done housekeeping myself, I know the feeling of dread as you enter a room that someone has been living in for several days without having had any service and the joy of getting a decent tip anyway.

By the time I got fuel, topped off the truck oil, did one last pit stop, and hit the road, it was about 7:05, ten minutes earlier than last year. There was no one at the American post, so I just drove through. Then, I got the green light at the first checkpoint! So far, so good! The first toll hadn’t changed, still $52 (all prices in pesos from this point forward!).

Kilometre 21 was a bit busier than last year and a real cautionary tale of doing some research when going to a foreign country and to never, ever, ever take anything for granted no matter how long you’ve been there! The woman ahead of me had a resident visa (or something like that) that she was supposed to have turned in when she left Mexico, but didn’t. They didn’t want to let her back in. It was ugly. As for the couple behind me, they are permanent residents and tried to bring in a US-plated vehicle, which is illegal. That was ugly, too. And then the people behind them were very impatient and complaining about the ‘bitchy’ immigration officer just doing her job. *sighs*

I got to the head of the queue in less than ten minutes and filled in my FMM. The officer gave it a once over, compared it to my passport, asked me how long I was staying in Mexico, and sent me off to Banjercito to pay, reminding me (still in Spanish) to come back and have the form stamped. I remembered to stop to have a copy of the form made, then got in line for payment. Remembering what Contessa told me last year, I paid for my vehicle import at the same time, rather than returning to immigration to have the form stamped, then going back to Banjercito for the vehicle stuff. Saved me a heap of time!

I did the whole TIP thing in Spanish without any problems. I think the only hiccup was that I wasn’t allowed to pay for the TIP itself (not the deposit) in pesos, only USD or with my Visa. Weird because I was allowed to pay my FMM fee in pesos. Anyway, nothing to be concerned about! The process felt very quick and easy and not at all convoluted like it did last year, since Contessa saved me those extra steps (thanks!).

Once the TIP was sorted out, I went back to immigration to have my FMM stamped. The officer now had other people helping her. She looked at me and said that she’d be a moment and made a slashing motion across her throat to show they were swamped. I told her I wasn’t in any hurry and the grateful smile she gave me made my day! Another gal ended up taking my FMM and dang was her Spanish fast. All I caught as she handed me back my receipt was ‘pide.’ Since that means ask/request/demand, I’m fairly certain she was telling me to hang onto it in case I’m asked for it…

I went back to the truck to put my holograma on my windshield and grab the wet wipes I had forgotten to put in my purse. There was a window washer trying to get some business (and some folks being absurdly rude to him — what is wrong with everyone?!). I called him over and had him give my windows a good cleaning while I went to the bathroom. This year, there was an attendant and paper, so I had to leave a tip.

So I was back on the road by, oh, 8:30ish, I believe, a little earlier than last year. I think I was there a total of forty minutes, tops.

I hit the road and within a couple of kilometres, I encountered my first of four narco (I’m assuming) checkpoints of the day. I was asked where I was coming from and going, the guy peeked through my topper window, and then I was on my way. Not more than two minutes later, I encountered the second checkpoint…

This one was very much like getting the red light last year. The first person I spoke to asked the same questions as I’d answered at the previous checkpoint, then I was told to pull over to an inspection area so they could check the back of my truck.

After a few minutes of wait, an officer came to ask me the same questions again, as well as how long am I planning to be in Maz, where am I stopping tonight and the name of the hotel, what I’m carrying, and more. He went over my FMM receipt, examined my holograma (first time I’ve had it checked), and requested my passport, as well as opening up the back and poking through my things.

This was absolutely fine as I have nothing to hide, but the interview was quite in depth and the man did not speak English. How the heck do non-Spanish speaking people get through situations like that?! My comprehension is definitely better than it was last year, especially since I’ve figured out that I don’t have to understand every word to understand what is being said to me. I still consider it miraculous when I’m asked a question, I give an answer, and it is what they want to hear!

After this, I was finally able to get some miles under me. It was a little chilly and drizzly, so that meant that I was in the mood for another coffee. I pulled into an Oxxo sometime before Magdalena and learned that you get charged for their smallest size of coffee if you have your own cup!

Sometime later, my coffee had been processed, so I pulled into a Pemex to use the bathroom. It had paper and soap, wow! I am thinking of starting a Bathrooms of Mexico website for the ladies. 😀 I left a tip here since I wasn’t a customer.

If you remember last year, I didn’t stop once between KM 21 and San Carlos, so we’re at two stops already for today. 🙂 The next stop I wanted to make was in Hermosillo to get my phone set up. Research told me to stay on the route through town to reach a Centro de Atencion a Clientes (full service store) next to the BMW dealership, but just a block or two after the turn off for the sort of bypass, I passed a different Centro de Atencion a Clientes! I did a U-turn, circled the block until I found parking, and headed inside.

This was so much easier than last year. For one thing, I knew what I needed and had an idea of the questions I was going to be asked. I registered at the entrance, saying that I needed a new Amigo SIM card for my phone and was sent immediately to a customer service associate. She processed me efficiently and her supervisor came by to tell me that there has been a huge change in the last year and I can call the US and Canada at the same rate as local calls. WOW! I do want to say that the standard Amigo rate sucks, so I’m still going to be favouring Skype! She got my order started, then sent me to the payment window.

There, I finally understood why I couldn’t do the internet refill in addition to the SIM card purchase at the same time — you need your phone number to do that and you don’t get a phone number till you have a SIM card. I paid my $149 and then went back to the first lady so she could activate my service. It took a few tries (ie. reboots) for my stupid phone to accept the SIM and I had to reiterate that, yes, I’ve used this phone with a TelCel SIM before. I’ll be so glad to upgrade my phone when I get home! But she finally got it working. Then, I went back to the payment window to buy 3GB of bandwidth good for one month ($400). That done, I sat down on a bench in the store to send the ALTO30 message to activate the discounted rate for data service and make sure I had service by checking in on Facebook. 🙂 Done, and easy peasy to boot!

It was only about an hour more to San Carlos, so I didn’t make any more stops, except for two more narco checkpoints, where I was just waved through. I pulled into Totonaka around 1:45. They didn’t have a cheap ($400) room available for me, so I had to take the $500 room that is identical, except that is has a TV…

I was ready for lunch by this point, so I headed across the street to Charly’s Rock for octopus tacos and beer. Two musicians asked me if I wanted to buy a song and I said yes! They serenaded me with a beautiful love song for several minutes and asked for $50. Very lovely!

My meal was excellent, of course, as was the view. It was supposed to be rainy in San Carlos this afternoon, but my luck continues and it was super hot and sunny. I just love this stop so much. It really is like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, or being dropped into colourized Oz!

After lunch, I walked to the Ley to get something to munch on tonight and for breakfast tomorrow, settling on a bag of bagels with some cream cheese since they didn’t have any savoury single bakery items. I had looked for a bakery while driving through Hermosillo, but didn’t see one. Anyway, bread and cheese are so cheap here that even if I don’t get through it all, there won’t be that much waste, financially speaking.

Finally, I got an ice cream for the walk back. 🙂

It’s so good to be back in Mexico! I can’t believe what a difference a year (and six months in this country) makes. I was comfortable on the drive down today, just as at ease as I am when traveling through the US and Canada, and feeling perfectly safe to stop when I needed to, as well as recognizing where to stop to do what I needed. Also, being comfortable with the currency really helps!

It’s now 4:30 and I’m rather beat. I think I need to accept that I’m on this super early morning schedule, completely wiped by late afternoon, and that this is fine as long as I get stuff done earlier in the day!

The only thing I need to do tomorrow is get to Guamúchil, so I don’t anticipate an early start, no matter what time I wake up. Then again, there is a pool at the other end… 🙂


Ready to Roll

I went to Kal Tire in Assiniboia today to have two new tires installed on the truck, the third to last thing I need to do to make the truck ready to go. The second to last is having the tires retorqued and the last is to top off the oil.

I had been quoted $122 per tire installed, which was about $270 with the tax. So I was surprised that the bill was over $340! I explained what I was quoted and the cashier promptly took off the extra service charges, no questions asked.

I continue to absolutely love Kal Tire and am so grateful we have one here in Assiniboia. Caroline and Charles also have nothing but good things to say about the franchise either, and have been to nearly as many different Kal Tires between Manitoba and BC as I have, and I also have experience with the one in Whitehorse!

I am going to Moose Jaw tomorrow to open up a Scotiabank account, so that’ll give the truck enough miles to have the wheels retorqued there. I’ll do a post about the new bank account once it’s opened. It is going to be my first concrete step towards my new Mexican life…

As for the truck oil, I bought loads since I can’t get the correct weight in Mexico and will check and top off the level myself before leaving. The air filter is fine and I’ll pick one up on the way to have replaced in Mexico before I leave in the spring.

It’s been rather a long day. I had an appointment at the bank at 11:00, but couldn’t get the tires done until 1:00. It’s hard to kill time in Assiniboia, but I did it. After the bank, I checked out the Salvation Army and was very disappointed that they have jacked up their prices sky high. I won’t be shopping there anymore. 🙁

I then walked to 121 Steakhouse and had a very long and leisurely lunch, lingering over what was probably a gallon of coffee. Coming out of the restaurant, I got a call from Caroline who was having a cabbage related emergency. I promised to pick one up for her.

Then, since it was a gorgeous day (it’s been a blessing of an October), I ambled to the Village Food Store to see if they still had ice cream. Yes, and my favourite flavour (brownie)! I enjoyed it as I walked most of the way across town to the grocery store, where I bought the biggest cabbage I could find, then lugged it back to my truck. It was heavy!

It was only about 12:20 by this point and I had another 40 minutes to kill, so I walked to the Home Hardware to pick up another can of butane for my new flambé torch, just to make sure I don’t run out over the winter. I really missed my broiler last winter for roasting veggies, searing meat and browning cheese, and thought that a flambé torch could be a suitable alternative. I’ve been experimenting with it and am liking the results!

I went back to my truck, which was parked in front of Fields, and decided to pop in and see if they had a whisk. No, but they were selling DVDs super cheap, so I picked up a few. Then, it was finally time to go to Kal Tire.

There, I sat with a book on my iPad while they quickly did the work on my truck. I was home by about 2:00 or so and went to deliver the cabbage, as well as have a cup of coffee and cuddle with C&C’s neighbour’s kitten, who looks just like my Tabitha. Their dog also made sure to get his own cuddles in!

Caroline might be going to Moose Jaw with me tomorrow. I hope so!