Sunday, October 24, 2010

Our Container Arrives

We've been here almost two weeks and our container has cleared customs and is ready to be delivered. We just need to get a list of what is in the container, to the BTB and then on to customs, so they can check and see if we're bringing in anything that is not allowed under the QRP. Not a problem, except, we need the official stamp on our QRP paperwork, that then needs to be given to our customs broker. That would mean a trip to Belize City.

So off we went to Belize City, to get all of our paperwork for the QRP and the official list of approved contents. But wait. What do you mean it's not all tax and duty free? My power tools, my cement mixer, my tile saw, their all OK? But we get duties and taxes on the toilet paper and paper towels? The sodas and potato chips? Oh, and shipping is included in those calculations? So, that 36 roll package of TP cost me $25 in duties and taxes? Go figure. But the government needs the money, and our total duties and taxes for everything in the container was $600US. We can live with that. They were going to get something, one way or another.

The container was scheduled to be delivered on Friday, October 22, but things happen and the delivery date was pushed out a day, until Saturday, October 23. Usually, that would not be a problem, but this time it was. Hurricane Richard was scheduled to hit Belize, sometime on Sunday, and that meant, the container had to be unpacked quickly.

Bands of rain were already coming through, when the container arrived. Customs was there and we were ready to start unloading. Except, we couldn't get the container seal off. It was as thick as rebar and twice as strong. Now I had to run around looking for bolt cutters as all the guys are standing around, waiting to unload the container. Finally, we located a bolt cutter, and got down to business. But with the rain, customs wanting to see everything and the driver waiting to take the container back to Belize City, it was going to be a quick unload.

We opened the container and the unpacking began...only not in the organized fashion that we had envisioned. Things were flying out of the container so fast, the customs agent couldn't keep up. We had eight guys unloading the container, and what took me two days to load, took two and a half hours to unload. Boxes were everywhere.

After spending all that time labeling boxes so we knew where they go, everything ended up piled in the guest bedroom, stairway, living room and kitchen. It was a mouse maze by the time they got done unloading. But, at least the container had arrived and we now had the essential things we needed...if we could find them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Work On The House Continues...

We've been here just over a week now and we now have running water, showers and toilets. We still have things that need to be fixed, but at least we have some of the basic comforts of a home. They've started cutting and installing the quartz counter tops and what a mess that is. Fine dust everywhere.

But when it is all finished, it will be worth the trouble.

And while all the work inside the house has been going on, they have also finished the pool and were in the process of filling it with, what was suppose to be, water from the municipal water supply. Only, the water that came out of the tank looked like river water. And I was paying $300BZ for 3000 gallons of clean water, not this shit.

So, I told them to take it out. I was afraid it was going to stain the pool before the filter could take out all the dirt. Our only option now was to use well water from a local source. Lots of minerals and low pressure were the big drawbacks. I figured it would take over three days to fill the pool. But right now, our options were limited.

But the house is finally coming together and I'm looking forward to beginning the landscaping.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Our Coral - Oct.30, '99 -Oct.10,'10

Our priority today was to get Coral to the vet. She was very lethargic, and wouldn't eat or drink. She didn't seem to be in any pain or terribly uncomfortable, but you could see it in her beautiful, brown eyes, that something wasn't quite right.

We took her to see Dr. Sheila, the local vet, first thing in the morning. She looked her over and gave her an IV to rehydrate her. The seizure had taken its toll on her, but we would have to wait and see, how she responds to treatments. We were given a prescription to have filled at the pharmacy in town, and we were to come back on Monday for a check up. So, we took her back home, and hoped for the best.

Only, the home we were returning to, was full of construction workers, scurrying about, trying to get the house in somewhat, working order. They were everywhere, except in the master bathroom. So we put Coral in the bathroom, which was also the coolest place in the house, and shut the doors to keep the noise down. We still had the two other dogs to look after, and this was all new to them. We hadn't yet established a routine, and with all the workers around, we tried to keep them occupied and out of the way.

After the all the workers left, the house became ours, once again. Coral was resting comfortably and we had now set up camp in our master bedroom. We inflated the bed, put out the dogs beds, and turned on the light and fan that our new neighbors, Tom and Terri, had lent to us to use. I don't know what we would have done without them. With only the things we brought with us in the truck, we didn't have much. And, with the house not ready, and our container still a week or more from arrival, we had no refrigerator or stove. We were living out of an ice chest (also borrowed from Tom and Terri), and food from our local restaurant. Even the coffee in the morning was provided by Tom and Terri.

We moved Coral into the bedroom with us and the other dogs. Timber, occasionally checking on her from time to time. The two of them have been together for over ten years, and have spent more time together, than with Mischelle and I. He could sense something was wrong. She was now breathing harder and her legs had become stiff, but she still seemed to be in no pain. We would wait until morning and see how she was then. There was not much we could do, but make her comfortable.

This might be our first night of good rest in more than three days. Coral was asleep next to me, on the floor. Then, around 2AM, Timber came in and got up on the bed. He had not done that in ages. Since we were on an air bed, the movement woke me up. The room was quiet. It was then, I realized that Coral had just passed away. I am heartbroken as I write this. This was our little girl. We had gone through so much, and we were looking forward to spending lots of time together as a family in our new home. Timber must have sensed she had passed and wanted to be close to us. She had passed in a position that made her appear to be very comfortable and one we had seen her in many times over the years.

In the morning, we contacted Dr. Sheila to get a death certificate so we could get Coral cremated at the local mortuary. It was tough taking her to the mortuary, knowing that would be the last time we would get to see our little girl. But everyone was so good about it and I felt as though Coral was left in good hands and would be taken care of properly.

We didn't know what to expect when we picked Coral's ashes up from the mortuary, but they had done such a nice job and put her ashes in a small, white, wooden box with a small black bow around it. It was beautiful.

We will save her ashes and plant a tree in our yard, where we can spread them. Now we need to focus on Timber and Jesse. Both of them are older, with issues of their own. Jesse is 13 and almost blind and Timber's 11 and his arthritis seems to be coming back. As Dr.Sheila said, " it's a bitch getting old". But I'm happy that we will be able to spend more time with them down here and that the quality of life will be more fulfilling.

We will always remember you, Coral. You were our first dog and you had the sweetest personality. You will be sorely missed. We love you Coral....just wait for us.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Can See Belize From Here

We slept in a while at the auto hotel, but we got out of there by 10AM, so we weren't too far off schedule. It was a clear day and the roads were dry. I thought we could probably make Santa Elena before nightfall if we didn't encounter any roadblocks. It's a beautiful drive through the countryside and most of the drive from VillaHermosa to Escarsega is a flat farm and cattle ranches. Not much to see, but a welcome relief from the prior day.

Since the new highway has gone in, the drive is a fairly easy one. The only change that I miss was the overhanging canopy of trees that use to envelope the road from Escarsega to Chetumal. Maybe after a few years, the canopy will grow back. Just never to the way it was.

We stopped in Escarsega at a new Burger King for a quick lunch and then to the Pemex station to fill up for the last stretch to Belize. It was getting later in the afternoon and we would probably arrive in Santa Elena after dark. But, at least we would be in Santa Elena.

We found a nice hotel, just before town, that was right on the lagoon. Nice place with big rooms for us and the dogs. Just what we needed before our final push into Belize.

But the rest we wanted, was not going to be here. Our girl, Coral, started having a Gran Mal seizure, late in the evening, that would last for hours. Here we were in Mexico, late at night, and unable to find a vet that would, maybe, be able to help. And then, how do we get her there. Being unfamiliar with Chetumal, I could have been driving all over town, with Coral in full seizure. We decide to wait the seizure out and give her medicine that our vet had given us before we left. She finally starts to settle down around 2AM, but at this point, she is thoughly exhausted. And, so are we. She had done so well during the whole trip, and even at our last stop, she was out of the truck, investigating everything.

Morning finally comes, and I don't think either one of us really got any sleep. Coral was sleeping, but something wasn't really right. It was Friday, and if we didn't cross the border today, we would have to wait until Monday. Do we try and take her to the vet in Chet, or do we try and cross the border with her and risk dealing with BAHA. We decide that we need to cross into Belize, and we need to do it today. So, we wait until 11AM, then head for the border. We need to turn in our visas and get the bond for our truck returned.

Mischelle does the foot work and gets everything taken care of in 15 minutes. Gotta be a record. From there we drive over to Belize Customs, to clear our truck and possessions. Coral is holding up well and all the dogs are sleeping in the back of the truck. As luck would have it, we were able to clear Customs in less than an hour (gotta be another record), and when the officers from BAHA came down to inspect the dogs, all of them were sleeping, so we got a quick pass there.

We're in Belize, and heading home.

Unfortunately, not the home we were expecting. The house had one working outlet, no water, and most working toilets. This was camping in a quite expensive tent. But, it is what it is, and we were home. We pulled out the dog beds and pulled out our inflatable bed, and we were going to spend out first night in our new home. After what we had been through the last few days, we were ready to try and get a good night of sleep. Same for the dogs.

Tomorrow is another day and our first priority is to take care of Coral.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are You Sure This Is The Right Way?

We left Aldora early, hoping to get through Tampico before traffic was bad and the policemen were out. I've heard from more than a few people that Tampico was a shake-down town. Speeding tickets, travel documentation is wrong, you name it and it's probably happened. It's just a shake-down. $100 US or 1000$ Pesos. Christmas is coming. And it may not even be the real police. Tourists are easy pickin's and easy to find.

We made it to the bridge, just outside of town, with no problems or tickets, when we came across a set of policemen at the end of the bridge. Sure enough, we were flagged to pull over. But as bribes go, this was cheap. 50 pesos or a Coke. We've heard it's a good idea to stock an ice chest with Coke, for cheap bribes or a friendly offering.

We were off again, this time our destination was VeraCruz. Looking at the map, I decided we would head down to the coast and what appeared to be a shorter route. Not quite so. We headed down an interstate road that wasn't that begin with. After a half an hour, the road changed from paved to dirt. OK, no problem, the road has just been washed out in portions. Then the dirt became mud. Then the mud and water. It was time to turn around.

An hour lost going in on that route and 45 minutes coming out. It's now 11:30 and we are still just outside of Tampico. Not where I wanted to be. But, the next 5 hours of the drive was through the mountains, very beautiful and very uneventful. We arrived at the small town of Cardel, just outside of VeraCruz, just before dark and decided to look for a motel/hotel that would take dogs. We had heard that the auto hotels were a good place to stay and that most of them were rented by the hour (no tell motel) and would have a small garage where we could safely put the truck. As luck would have it, we found a nice little place on the edge of town. Big rooms, big bathroom with a nice shower, large enclosed garage and reasonable rates. We had found our home for the night.

And as the evening went on, the place got crowded. Probably twenty rooms and I'm sure they weren't all weary travelers. It cost us 400$ Pesos or about $34 for the night, and was the best place we had stayed at, so far on this trip.

The next morning, we were up early, looking forward to getting a good start on the road. Our next objective was to reach VillaHermosa or if we're lucky, Escarcega. As we headed for VeraCruz, I was looking for the road around the center of the city. I didn't find it. Next thing I know, we're in the city, looking for signs to lead us to the auto pista (toll road). As with our experience in Reynosa, there were conflicting signs everywhere. We drove inside of town for the better part of an hour before we finally saw a sign to the auto pista. Only it was going in the opposite direction of where we were headed and we could not find a place to turn around. The idea came to look for cops, then flip a u-turn at the first opportunity. Not the best option, but one that had to happen.

We finally find our way to the auto pista, and now we were looking for our connection to the Route 145 toll road that would take us to VillaHermosa. This is where our journey would take a turn for the worse.

As we arrived at the Route 145, there was a road closed sign and markers directing us to another road a couple of miles away. When we saw all the cars waiting to turn left at the stop sign, we knew this was going to be trouble. With the main road closed to VillaHermosa, all the car and truck traffic heading south was forced to use a secondary road, Route that would take us through several small towns and pueblos. Each of those towns had a series of speed bumps that the truckers would have to cross, but only after coming to almost a complete stop at each one. So when you have 20 or so trucks in front of you, it can take 45 minutes or more to get through each town. We were passing trucks at every opportunity, but there were always more ahead. Then after a couple of hours of this cat and mouse game, we came to a dead stop in the road. This didn't look good.

As I got out of the truck to look ahead, I could see a couple of massive tow trucks working to pull a large truck out of the gully. Work was progressing, but it was a full Corona truck and I wonder how many beer breaks these guys were taking. As we talked with some of the locals, we found out that this road had also been washed out about 15 miles further down the road so it was back to the map to look at our options. It wasn't looking good. We could stay here and wait for the truck to be cleared from the road and take our chances further down the road or we could turn around and look for another route to VillaHermosa. We decided to turn around and take our chances on another road, further west, that would take us almost clear to the Pacific ocean. From there, we would decide if we wanted to continue on to VillaHermosa or detour around to the Pacific side and approach Belize from another direction.

We checked the map and looked for a way to get to Route 147 that would hopefully get us around this mess. It was now after 1PM and we were only 50 miles outside of VeraCruz and a long way from VillaHermosa. We got gas at the Pemex station and asked if the road we were going on, would get us to the Route 147. They directed us to a road to going to Playa Vincente, that on the map showed it was a paved road. No problem. We headed down the road with a couple of other trucks following us. At first the road was a nice, paved road that passed by some big ranches. Some eight miles or so down the road that nice paved road gave way to a muddy dirt road. Again no problem. We had 4 wheel drive, so I figured we would be OK and the road wasn't that bad. Well a few more miles down the muddy road, it became down right nasty. The mud was slick as snot. The small streams were everywhere and it had begun to rain. But the other trucks in our little caravan pushed onward, so now, I just followed them. It looked worse before it got better, but soon we came across a small village where we got directions to the highway, just a few miles ahead. What a relief.

When we finally found our way to Route 147, it was now after 2PM. And it was the same story as the other route. Lots of trucks, all backed up at each small town. But we were able to pass the trucks as they slowed down for the speed bumps and we managed to not get pulled over by the local police. We seemed to be making good time and we might make VillaHermosa by dark. But this was not to be. The hurricane season had taken its toll on the state of VeraCruz. Roads were either buried in mudslides or washed out. The large trucks were forced to use these secondary roads that were not made to handle this kind of constant truck traffic. And the truckers were not use to driving these type of roads.

Another truck had gone off the road, but this time there were no tow trucks on the scene. It was going to be another long wait.

But not everybody was bothered by the delays.

Again, after a few hours wait, we were on the road once again. But now it had become slow and go. The roads were now weaving through the mountains and the roads had not gotten any better. And on top of that, it was now starting to get dark. It looked as though we were going to have to travel in the dark. Not much of a choice. Most of the towns had resturaunts, but no motels. As we came out of the canyon and onto a main road, we decided to continue, in the dark. There were no Pemex stations around where we could park and maybe get some sleep. Just a dark road and miles between towns.

After a couple of hours on the road, we finally approached the auto pista going to VillaHermosa. We could catch a good road for a while and find an auto hotel at a Pemex station, where we could spend the night. But, it wasn't going to be that easy.

On the toll road to VillaHermosa, we came across a large 4x4 piece of lumber, lying in the road. Since it almost spanned the width of the road, we had no choice but to go over it. We figured one of the large trucks had lost it from its load. Almost immediately, the back right tire went flat. So I pulled over and proceeded to get the jack and spare tire out from the truck. As I was changing the tire, suddenly a couple of men came out of the bushes, looking to rob us. It had been a set up and we were the victims. It now fell into place. The 4x4 was not there by accident, but was planted by these robbers to take advantage of the shock of the blow out and the surprise of the ambush. Give us money, they said in broken english. As one of the robbers took a swing at Mischelle, she hit him hard with the police type mag flashlight we were using, when we changing the tire. That sent him back a few feet. That's when I grabbed the flashlight from Mischelle and went after these guys like the gringo from hell. I don't think they were expecting any resistance, as they both ran back into the bush. I went back to the truck and did my best imitation of a NASCAR tire change and we were out of there within 5 minutes. Mischelle all the time, scanning the bushes, fully expecting them to be back. But their element of surprise was gone, we had the dogs and we were gone before they could regroup.

You think you are safer on the auto pista, rather than the local road or highways, but unfortunately, things like this are happening all over Mexico. Even the buses from Playa del Carmen to Chetumal are being robbed.

We found an auto hotel, at a Pemex station, about 15 miles down the road, where we could stay the night and survey the damage to the truck. We were lucky it was a 4X4 and had a higher clearance. It probably would have flipped a smaller car. Other than the flat tire, the truck was in good shape.

I wanted to get to bed, so we could get a good start in the morning. It had been a long day, topped off by a dangerous situation, and we were exhausted. Our goal was to reach Santa Elena, on the Belize/Mexico border, and get a hotel there for the night, so we could cross into Belize in the morning.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Adventure Begins

We made it across the border at Los Indios and encountered no real problems. Of course, when we crossed into the Mexican side of the border, we had to push a button for a red light/green light customs check. We got the red light. I had to take down, from the top of the truck, all the luggage I had just secured down at the motel, open them up, let them inspect and then re-secure them all back on top. A half an hour to get through that, then on to immigration, the posting of a bond and insurance for the truck. Another hour and we are finally on the road, hoping to reach Tampico before dark.

Shortly after we cross the border, we have a detour. The Route 180 that we usually take is closed, and we are detoured to Reynosa, about 30 miles away. A little out of our way, but we find a road that will get us back to the Route 180, so off we go. Or so we thought. Once we arrived in Reynosa, we found so many conflicting signs directing us to the road out of town, that we were driving in circles for the better part of an hour. Finally, Mischelle sees a small sign with our route number, and we are back on the road again. It's now, almost noon, and we still have a good drive in front of us.

Along the way, we pass a caravan of 30+ military vehicles, full of men and equipment. With all that is going on in Mexico, I wonder where they are headed. We manage to make it to Aldama, a small town about 30 miles north of Tampico. It's been a long day, the dogs have been great, and it's time to call it a night. I've stayed here before, and the dogs were welcome, so this was our first stop outside of the US.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A New Day, Same View

Our second day on the road began with a late start out of the motel. I needed to move items around, inside and outside of the truck, so the dogs could have more room to move about. After that, it was back on the road to our next destination, Fort Stockton, Texas. We were looking at a 8-10 hour drive through the rest of Arizona, all of New Mexico and then into Texas.

The dogs have been wonderful during the trip, sleeping most of the time while in the car. We usually average about 3-4 hours on the road before they need a break. Then we take a short pit stop, then back on the road again. Even in the motel, they have been great. No issues at all. It really helps when we don't have to worry about the dogs.

We arrived at Fort Stockton around 7PM, which was later than I wanted, but I had forgot about the time changes, which shaved off 2 hours of travel time. Again, we stayed at Motel 6, with no problems, but this time on the ground floor. We got up early, but because of the time changes, it was after 8AM before we left. This time we were looking at a 10 hour drive from Fort Stockton to McAllen, Texas. It was a long drive, but nice and uneventful. We got into McAllen around 6PM and made contact with Rocio transmigrante, only to find out the border crossing we use is closed on Sunday. Great. That meant another day in McAllen, waiting to cross the border. Deja Vu of my last trip. And on top of that, the toll road from VeraCruz to VillaHermosa has been washed out in places and is still being repaired. The only option around it is a road that is in such poor condition, that the average speed is only around 5 mph. So we are spending the night again at the Motel 6 and getting a good nights rest before we start again on our adventure. Rocio is checking on the road conditions for us and hopefully the road will be repaired before we get there, in a couple of days.

The trip through the US has been pretty uneventful and we hope the trip through Mexico will be just the same. Only 3 or 4 more days to go.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's All a Blur

We finally closed the deal on our home, Wednesday, five days later than we had originally planned, but it has all worked out in the end. With the container not showing up as scheduled, we lost four days of loading time. So, when we found out closing on the house wouldn't be until at least Tuesday, it gave us more time to load the container. And we needed every minute of it. I had it so well planned. We had, what seemed to be most of the house packed and we still had lots of room in the container. Even enough for a golf cart, or so I thought.

But it was all the last minute items, the odd size pictures and my tools, that was the straw that broke the camels back. The container was stuffed as full as it could be and we finished loading it, just as the truck pulled up to pick up the container. It was scheduled to be there, Wednesday at 12, and there it was, right on schedule. We finished packing it with not a minute to spare. Whatever was in there was going to Belize, what ever wasn't, wasn't. We have to take the dogs to Belize in the truck, so there is no room in there for anything.

Now that the container was gone, that part of our adventure was over, but we weren't quite finished. We were so busy trying to load the container, we hadn't got around to finishing the final touch ups on the house or even cleaning it up. So there we were, just an hour after the container left and we had to be out of the house by 7PM. The new owner, Kay, came by to pick up the keys at 4pm, and we were still cleaning the place. Of course, all of our wonderful neighbors came by during the day, to give their best wishes for us, and that took more time. Soon it was six and we had one hour left before we left our beautiful home for the last time. It was just going by so quickly. And we still needed time to get the truck packed and the dogs situated inside.

I finally finished loading the XTerra, just before 7PM. The neighbors came by for the final good-byes, we loaded the dogs, and we were off on our new adventure. I didn't even get the chance to go back through the the house with Mischelle, and remember all the good times we had there. It has been a wonderful first house for us and I am proud of all the upgrades and remodeling we did. It looks nothing like the home we moved into, back in '99. But it was all such a blur, that final day. We no longer lived in California, and soon we would no longer live in the United States. What a change in our lives.

Our first stop on our trip would be Desert Hot Springs, where Mischelle's mom lives. We would stay there the night, then push on to Benson, Arizona the next morning. When we arrived around 11PM, you could smell the rain in the air. By 2AM, it was pouring rain and looked more like Belize than Palm Springs. The monsoon weather had arrived and it looked as though it would stay around for a few days. But we didn't have a few days. So, the next morning, we pushed on. It turns out to be a good decision, as we had clear weather for the next part of the trip and Desert Hot Springs had heavy rain, at times, for the next couple of days.

We got a late start from Mischelle's mom's place and didn't arrive in Benson until around 6PM. We were staying at Motel 6's all along our route in the US, because they allow dogs in the rooms. We had a nice room in Benson, but it was on the second floor and the dogs had never been in an elevator. Coral was a little weary of it, but Timber had no problems at all. Once we got inside the room, Mischelle and the dogs settled in for the night, and our first full day on the road, was over.

The journey continues.....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Well, the container finally showed up at 3:45 today. I was lucky to get a time extension on the liftgate truck I rented, but I have to have it back at the rental yard by 7AM, tomorrow. So much for sleeping in after a hard day of moving. But it was a good day. We were able to unload the entire rental truck, get the refrigerator, washer, dryer, mattresses and all of the living room furniture loaded into the container and we still have room. I guess its back to the stores to shop. You can't have any space left in a container when you ship it. It's just not right! Maybe I will get that golf cart after all. Now if I can just get it by Customs as a household item so I don't have to pay taxes and duties on it.

Our 6'X 8' Shed, filled to capacity

The 7'X 16' second storage area, filled to capacity

Our "POD" temporary storage unit, almost filled to capacity

The garage storage area, almost filled to capacity

Back of the rental truck, half filled to capacity

Our container

Starting to load the container

Moving from the rental truck to the container

But as the title suggests, it's not all good. We found out today that escrow will probably not close until next Tuesday, not Friday, as planned. So that means that we will be living in an EMPTY house until then. The container will be packed and on its way to Belize, and we'll be sleeping on an air mattress, with a leak. I had planned to fix it someday, but I guess that day should have been yesterday.

But with those extra days, we'll pick up any items we may have forgot and it will give me a chance to do a little bit of flying before we go. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a chance to solo. I can hope. It was something I wanted to do before we left for Belize, so this may be my last chance. I hadn't flown since late July, but I just had to get up one more time, before we left, so I went flying with my friend, Jeff. Thinking this would be my last time, Jeff let me do a little flying myself. It feels so good to get back in the air. I do miss it.

And on a sad note, I'd like to remember my friend, Gene. He passed away last week, several weeks after an emergency bypass surgery. He was good friend and pilot at our ultralight airport and he will be sorely missed. He had just bought a new, 2 seater, QuickSilver ultralight, just four days before his emergency surgery. He never even got the chance to fly it. He took me on my first flight to the Santa Paula airport. It's something I'll always remember. So Gene, here's to you, my friend. Fly High!!!

Three More Days

Time continues to fly by and we are now down to three days before the closing date on the house. As we scramble to get ready for the move, things don't always go as planned. We had made arrangements for the container to be delivered at 3PM on Friday, had rented a truck with a lift gate and had several friends to help move the heavy furniture. But the best plans have built in leeway, just in case something does go wrong. Well it did. The shipper failed to contact the local cargo company to drop off the container, so here it is, Tuesday morning, and we are still waiting for the container to be delivered. It's cutting it close, but if it shows up as scheduled, by 1PM, we should still have a few days to fill it. But it sure does add some unnecessary stress.

On a good note. We were approved for the QRP program as of September 17th. Now we are waiting for the paperwork on our dogs to be approved, and we'll be good to go.

But for now, it's back to getting things in the moving van so we can transfer it to the container, whenever that arrives.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Watching the Days Count Down

It's now down to 17 days before the move and we are scrambling to get things done. As we keep checking things off our list, more things seem to creep on to it and it sometimes seems like we're getting nowhere.

We finally have the SOLD sign on the house, now that all the contingencies have been signed off.

A garage sale is planned for this Saturday to get rid of all of all the excess stuff we've gathered over the years. We've also been using craigslist to post some things for sale and I've been pleasantly surprised at the volume of calls I received from the ads. A lot more than the ads I had to pay for.

And since we're still here, it's time again for the Los Angeles County Fair. Last year I thought would be our last time to visit the fair, but things always seem to take longer than expected, and we're still here. So, on Friday, it's off to the fair we go. Look at all the goods for sale, little betting on the ponies, a couple of beers and a big ol' turkey leg. I love the fair.

After that, it's back to the grind stone. September 24th is coming up fast.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Four More Days

The last of the inspections was this morning. We passed the building inspection with only a few changes and repairs to be made. Some are from the new laws in effect now that were not there when we bought the house. Others are just from wear and tear. The best thing is, there was nothing major that needed to be done. Now we wait until Tuesday, when the contract becomes binding. Then it's time to PARTY!!!! Beware Belize, the Chows are on their way!!!

The Inspections Have Gone Well...So Far

It has been a busy week, getting the house ready for the inspections and the appraisal. I know this will soon be behind us, but it sure is a pain right now. We passed the termite inspection, with only a couple of spot treatments and repairs and the appraisal came in at the price we needed. So two of the three inspections are done, with the building inspection due today at 10AM. This is our last hurdle, then we can really begin to get ready for our move to Belize.

We are working with a shipping company to move our household goods to Belize, but as of right now, they will deliver and pickup a container to our house in Camarillo but will only ship it as far as the Belize border. From there we will have to find transportation from the border to Consejo. Not sure if that's the way we want to go. We still have a few more options.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Going... Going...GONE...We've SOLD our Home!!!

After only 12 days on the market, we've sold our home! Now we begin the process of moving out of the country. Yard sales, freight forwarders, banking, bills, the list just goes on and on. But with Mischelle's help, we can tackle anything. Our official closing date is......September 24th. Hopefully that will be the date that we pack up the truck with the dogs and head to Belize. If all goes well, we should arrive in Belize sometime between October 1st and October 5th. We plan on taking our time in the States, then crossing over into Mexico and making that part of the trip in 3 days. The dream has finally come true. Well, almost. We still need to pass the home inspection, pass the termite inspection and the 14 days in which they can cancel the sale for reasons found in the inspections. I don't think we'll have problem, except for the termites. Just too many of them around here. Most of the houses are tented when they are sold. Maybe we'll be the exception. Yah, right. And now we need to find a container and a shipper. The fun has just begun!

Almost There

Our house has now been on the market for 12 days. We've had over twenty showings, five have come back for second viewings and one has come back four times. There has been quite a bit of interest in our home and we've had four offers already. We have focused on two of them as the most promising and are now in the process of going back and forth with counter offers. We may, in fact, take one of the offers today if everything works out.

It's so stressing trying to keep the house in immaculate condition while we are living in it. And on top of that, we have Mischelle's mother staying with us and our neice, who is on leave from the Army, came down from Washington state to visit us for a few days. I'm ready for this to be over so we can get back into a normal routine.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Good Start to Selling Our Home

Now that the weekend has passed, our house has been on the market for 4 days and we've had 7 viewings with three more scheduled for today. Three of those have come back for a second visit and we have two offers on the table. We have countered the two offers and are waiting to see what the rest of the week will bring. It was a slow weekend here because the Ventura County Fair opened this weekend and the Point Magu Naval Air Base had an air show with the Thunderbirds performing.

With the dog incident behind us, we need to get a container soon, so we can start packing our household goods. Both offers want a 30 day escrow, so things could happen fast. There are so many things to do and 30 days seems like an awfully short time to get everything done. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Baby Girl's In Trouble

The viewing of our home creates a small problem with the dogs around. We need to keep them out of the way when the house is being viewed. Luckily, our neighbors across the street are more than happy to accommodate us and the dogs, while we wait for our home to be shown. On average, it takes around 40 minutes per showing. But when there has been a couple of back to back showings, it may take a couple of hours before we can go back home.

Most of the time, we all sit on our neighbor's front porch, watching the people go in and out, and wonder what they are thinking. Then afterwards, going back home, we're giving the dogs only limited access to the house, until we are sure there are going to be no more showings that day. But this new routine has put tremendous stress on my female dog, Coral. We got both her and Timber over ten years ago, and as they both approach 11 years old, their age is a factor in both their lives. Timber has severe arthritis, but the medication we are using has brought him welcome relief from the pain and has actually made him feel better and more like his old self. He runs and plays, and once again become the social butterfly he once was.

Coral, on the other hand, is more of a home body. She would rather spend the day lounging on the bed, keeping Mischelle company. She doesn't like change and has her own little routine.

But with the changes going on around the house and the changes in her routine, she was not a happy camper. But Mischelle and I didn't think too much about it. She had the other dogs to keep her company and she was in a place she knew, at our neighbors, during the time of the showings.

The trouble started around 11:30PM. Mischelle was hearing strange noises outside and Timber was using an unusual bark that seemed to indicate trouble rather than just mice or possums. As Mischelle went outside, she found Coral in a full seizure, drooling profusely, jaws locked, legs stiff, eyes rolled back and twitching violently. As Mischelle yelled for me, I came running, having no idea of what to expect. I had been the first contact when someone, at a job I was at, went into a full seizure. But I know what to do there. Roll them on their side, make sure the airway is clear and clear the area of any obstacles and call 911. But what do you do when it's your dog?

I had told Mischelle when we were looking for our first dogs, "No Black Dogs". I didn't want the dark, shedding fur all over the house. But, of course, the first dog she fell in love with was a big, black fur ball, that we eventually named Coral, after the unique black coral found in the ocean.

Mischelle may have picked her out, but she was to be my little girl (a spoiled one at that). And here was my girl, going through a violent seizure. What do I do? As I held her, I tried to pry open her jaws (DO NOT DO THIS) to make sure she had a clear airway. Only later did I find out, that is not the thing to do. In that state, the dog may bite anything or anyone. So I held on to her, speaking softly and reassuring her that I was there. At that point, I was afraid she was going to die in my arms. All I could do was hold her close and offer a soothing voice.

After about 2 minutes she started to come around. At first, the seizure had caused temporary blindness, but you could see in her eyes that she was beginning to recover. It's so strange, but at some point, they come out of the fog of the seizure, look around and almost seem to ask " what's everyone doing hanging over me?". This was the first time I had encountered a dog seizure, so I went online to find out what to do. I didn't really want to try and load Coral up in the car and drive her 20 miles to the emergency pet hospital, take her into a bright room and leave her with people she didn't know. It would just add to her stress.

So, after going online ( and reading about canine seizures, I found out that they are not that uncommon and there's not much you can do while they are happening, so you just need to let the seizure run its' course. It's kind of an electrical storm in the brain sometimes related to stress. Bingo. She had "tonic clonic" and fit the description to a "T". We had noticed the early stages a few hours before but thought she was just hot and thought nothing of it. But after reading about the seizures, I found out excessive drooling is one of the first signs of a seizure.

After that, we decided not to take her to the emergency room and wait until morning to see our regular vet, Dr. Heath, that she knows well. But just before our trip to the vet, she went through another mild seizure, so we waited for an hour or so before we brought her in. Finally, we got her to the vet. I'm glad we waited because Coral was calm and Dr. Heath was very reassuring. He gave her a shot of Valium to calm her down and break the cycle of seizures. We needed to watch her for the next 24 hours to see if the seizures returned. It's been almost 24 hours now, and she is back to her normal self. What a relief.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Couple of Nibbles?

Our house officially went on the market on Thursday. It started with what is called a caravan. That is a day of the week, usually a Thursday between 9 and 2, when all the local Realtors tour the houses that have come on the market that week. We had 17 realty agents stop by and two of them came back for showings later that afternoon. Both of them brought their clients back for a second viewing and out of the five agents that have brought their clients to view our house over the last couple of days, three have come back for a second viewing. Hopefully that is a good sign. And weekend is still ahead.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It Finally Happened

After a couple of months of remodeling, we have finally completed the tasks and are moving on to the next stage. This is where it gets scary. We just put our home, here in Camarillo, on the market.

Our house could sell at any time and the escrow could be as short as 30 days. That means, we would be outta here as soon as mid-September. Are we ready? I just don't know. But I guess we'll have to be.

With the interest rates at record lows, you would think that there would be lots of buyers in the market, especially with homes selling at the lowest prices in years. But the banks are holding their money and lending has become quite tight. Lending does happen, if you can jump through a few hoops, so hopefully our real estate company will make sure everyone is pre-qualified. The realtor is having all the local real estate agents here tomorrow for an open house, so Mischelle has been busy getting the place ready.

I'm really hoping our home goes quickly. We're in a good location and the old real estate adage is, location, location, location. So if you know anybody that wants to move to California, I have a place for you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Amazing Advances in Technology

Being a phone man for thirty years, I have watched many changes in both the telecommunication corporate world and the technology used to drive the phone business. From AT&T to PacBell, then to Pacific Telesis and then SBC and then finally back to at&t (small letters), I have seen AT&T go from the world's largest phone company, only to be broken up into seven regional companies, then reformed back into one of the world's largest phone companies, once again.

But it is the technology that has really been the game changer. I started out with good 'ol tip and ring (phone speak for positive and negative), dial phones and a new technology called touch tone. Then they started adding calling features to the phone service. Voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, all added to the the phone experience. Then came the faxes and pagers. Again, this sparked a boom to the industry, but with that boom came the next problem. Not enough telephone numbers. So to help alleviate the problem, they first started by requiring that a "1" be dialed before the area code. That lasted for a while, but soon a new technology was to arrive...the cell phone. Again, the number pool was getting smaller, so now it was time to add more area codes. This was usually not a pleasant undertaking. People and businesses had to change phone numbers that they may of had for years or even decades. In some cites, you need to dial 10 digits, just to call a neighbor across the street. But the change was needed to expand the availability of phone numbers.

Then came the Internet, and phone lines were being used for a whole new technology, DSL. With the explosion of the Internet, faster data transmission was needed to accommodate the advances in web page design. More and more transactions were moving across the Internet and the phone lines. But this technology was a double edged sword. With the higher data transmission speeds came a new technology called VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) that would allow you to bypass the normal phone company to make phone calls that were free or very low cost. The traditional landline phone was fast becoming a dinosaur. And since that was the division of phone service I was in, I too, was becoming a dinosaur. As the company downsized, I became part of the discards.

After that short history lesson, it brings me to the original point I was writing about. The VOIP service, Skype. I've had Skype for a while now, but didn't really use it a lot because it required me to sit at my computer to make a call and it required the person I was calling, to be at theirs. Did a few video calls to my friends, but that was about it. But last week I bought a subscription to Skype that allows me to make calls to any land or mobile phone in the US and Canada, for free. So now, the people I call on Skype don't have to be at their computer to receive the call. Then, I took the next step and bought a local Skype phone number, so now our friends can call us, where ever we are, even in Belize, as though it's a call to the 805 area code. And it comes with all the features, such as call waiting, voicemail, etc. And to add to the experience, I bought a Skype phone, made by Logitech.

The land line phone, the cordless phone and the Skype phone

It works just like a cordless phone, dial tone and all. In fact, it has better range and quality than my cordless phone. I just pick it up and dial, or I can choose from my Skype list. And with all the features available, the $5.00 a month access with a phone number and the portability, I can see why the land line is becoming a dinosaur. And you can pick your telephone number from anywhere in the US or Canada. You want a New York, New York telephone number, no problem. How about Miami or Vancouver? Again, no problem. At the airport with wi-fi access? Starbucks? Got Skype there too. Just bring along the phone and you have a cordless phone for on the go, able to receive calls anywhere in the world.

Not the same 'ol phone company.