Tuesday, September 4, 2018

HOW WE DEAL WITH OUR BILLS & OTHER U.S. MAIL WHILE LIVING IN MEXICO

Traveling Mailbox LLC Simplifies Mail Forwarding
     We are frequently asked how we deal with our bills and mail now that we live in México most of the year. So, I decided it was high time I described the process we use. Hopefully this information will help others solve one of the technical difficulties of escaping the rat race north of the border.

     Traveling Mailbox LLC is a mail forwarding service that simplifies our lives while living and traveling in Mexico and the United States. Our method of using this handy service has evolved over the years to further simplify receiving mail and packages no matter where we are in our travels. But before I get into explaining how it works for us, let me tell you the first, most important step in simplifying mail issues while living in México.
     Most Important Step: Eliminate Bills! We sold our cars, sold our home in the U.S., paid cash for our motorhome, and stopped using credit cards. That took care of all mortgage and loan payment bills as well as all of the property tax bills, utility bills, and other high expenses that go along with property ownership in the U.S. (You might like to read more about that process in my article MONEYAIN'T EVERYTHING!: Our Road to a Simpler, Healthier Life”.) We even cancelled our U.S. cell phone contracts with Sprint and Verizon—no more bills. We bought an inexpensive Nokia 2 phone and use it with a month-to-month, pay-as-you-go H20 plan in the U.S. and Telcel in Mexico, making payments online.
Sold Our Home & Became Full-Time RVers, Minimizing Mailed Bills
     Even after extreme simplification of our lives, some U.S. mail is unavoidable. Most of it is junk and can be eliminated, but we don’t want to miss a few items such as refund checks and notices from the I.R.S. or Social Security. So, here are two mail forwarding options that work for us.

OPTION 1: Mail Forwarding from a P.O. Box to Traveling Mailbox LLC (This is What We Have Done for the Past 4 Years)
     Step 1: Keep a P.O. Box at a U.S. Post Office. We kept our P.O. Box in Oregon as our primary address when we moved to México. This worked fine while we were full-time RVers and still works while we live in Sayulita, México. But we have discovered that the U.S. Postal Service makes this rather cumbersome if you stay out of the country longer than six months at a time. Since we live in Mexico for about nine months each year, we’ve decided to switch to an easier method using Traveling Mailbox, described below in Option 2.
     Step 2: Sign Up for a Traveling Mailbox at https://travelingmailbox.com/ and complete the USPS 1583 Form. This is the easy part, , except that it must be notarized.


     Step 3: Complete a Mail Forwarding Request (Called "Change of Address" Form) with the U.S. Postal Service to have them Forward Your Mail to Traveling Mailbox. The best part of having your mail forwarded is that all of the junk mail gets discarded and recycled by the USPS. No More Junk Mail!
     The mail forwarding form can be completed online (with some frustration) at http://www.USPS.com using the following procedure: “Sign Up” for an account and then “Sign In” to the USPS website. Go to “Track and Manage”, holding your cursor over it without clicking, move your cursor down and click on “Change of Address”. Click “Get Started” near the top of the page and complete the form. (Put your P.O. Box into the Street Address line.) On the next page, click on “Temporary Move” and complete this form.
     The USPS will send you an email confirming your mail forwarding request and will include a Confirmation Code. This will only forward your mail for six months. If you want to extend your mail forwarding another six months, be sure to keep this confirmation code because you will need it to renew and extend the mail forwarding for the next six months.
     Step 4: Renew Your Mail Forwarding Request for the Second Six Months. As above, go to “Track and Manage”, holding your cursor over it without clicking, move your cursor down and click on “Change of Address”. This is the tricky part: To renew your “Change of Address” every six months, go almost to the bottom of the screen to "Have you already changed your address?". Click on “View or Edit”. Complete the information requested.
     Step 5 (IMPORTANT): Before Renewing for the third and subsequent Mail Forwarding requests, you must leave at least 45 Days between the time your second Mail Forwarding period expires and your third Mail Forwarding (Change of Address) request, or the USPS will not allow it.
     Okay, that whole rigamarole with the U.S. Postal Service has gotten old. We’ve gotten older, too, and we just can’t keep playing that game every six months. So, we’ve decided to go with Option 2, still using Traveling Mailbox, but eliminating our Oregon P.O. Box. It was time to get serious about simplifying this part of our life.
We Work Daily on Simplifying Our Lives
Option 2: Change Our Address to One of the Traveling Mailbox Physical Addresses (This is what we have decided to start doing)
     Most of our mail comes via email these days. But there are still a few items of U.S. mail that we need or want to receive, such as Jon’s new Medicare card that swapped his Social Security Number for a new ID number, my book copyright certificates, U.S. doctor’s bills (since they think email doesn’t meet HIPAA security requirements), our new motorhome registration, and new driver’s licenses. Traveling Mailbox provides a means to receive original documents when needed, forwarded to wherever we choose.
How Traveling Mailbox Works (Eliminating Our USPS P.O. Box)
     Step 1: Subscribe to a Traveling Mailbox. They use physical addresses, not P.O. boxes, so they can receive packages for you and have them forwarded to you wherever you are. Their Standard Address is in North Carolina, but we like to choose a Premium Address in the state we spend the most time in (it seems more logical to doctors, insurance companies, DMV, etc.). Premium Address options include Oregon, Florida, Arizona, and many more.
     Step 2: Complete the USPS 1583 Form, following the directions including having it notarized. (The USPS Form 1583 will be completed in your account after you subscribe).
     Step 3: Update your address with senders of your mail, giving them your Traveling Mailbox address. It may be a good idea to complete a USPS Change of Address at this time as well, so that mail from your old address will catch up with you through your Traveling Mailbox.
     Step 4: As your mail arrives, Traveling Mailbox will scan the envelopes and upload them to your online mailbox, notifying you by email that you have mail. You can then have them open each piece that you care about, scan it, and email you the contents in PDF format. You can also have Traveling Mailbox forward your mail anywhere, hold your mail, or have them securely shred it.
An Email Notifies Us That We Have Mail
I Told Traveling Mailbox to Open and Scan This One
     When we are in México, which is most of the year, scanned PDF versions of our mail is sufficient for our needs. We just save them in our computers.
     If an original document is needed, we have it forwarded to us when we arrive in the United States. Sometimes we have Traveling Mailbox forward mail to our children’s home when we are on our way to visit them. Sometimes we have them forward it to an RV Park we are staying at for an extended period. Once, Traveling Mailbox received a package from Amazon for us and we had it forwarded to General Delivery in the town we were staying in. It has worked great, using it that way!
I Asked Traveling Mailbox to Forward the Original Certificate to Me
     One thing we haven’t done is ask Traveling Mailbox to forward something to us in Sayulita, México, because it’s likely to get lost in the Mexican mail service. Maybe we’ll try that sometime. We have received two items mailed from the U.S. to our Sayulita address—my absentee ballot and a Christmas card, both three months late. Better late than never, I guess.

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Terry L Turrell

Friday, August 10, 2018

WE DOWNSIZED TO A CLASS C MOTORHOME: Easier Traveling in the US & Mexico

Our First Camping Trip in Our 28' Class C Motorhome

It Fits Fine in National Forest Service Campground Sites
     Trading our motorhome in and downsizing was a rather spur-of-the-moment decision. We weren’t planning to move from our Class A to a Class C motorhome. But sometimes things happen for a reason.
Our Southwind 32V with 2 Bikes on the Back in Mazatlan
     When we crossed the border in our Southwind motorhome this year, leaving Mexico to visit our family in the US, we had a big decision to make: should we stop at the little booth to have our 10-year RV temporary import permit removed from the windshield? The permit was still valid in Mexico for another eight years. But we debated about what would happen if we were in an accident in the US that wrecked the RV. We would have to pay to have the rig towed to the border to return the permit to the Mexican government. It wasn’t worth the risk. After all, the 10-year permit for a motorhome only costs about $60. We could just purchase a new one when we return in four months.
Our Southwind with the Permit Sticker on the Windshield

     Also, what if we decided to sell the large Class A motorhome? We would have to first drive it back into Mexico, return to the little booth where they remove the import permit sticker from the windshield, then drive it back north to sell it. It just wasn’t worth the chance. Though we weren’t thinking about selling at the time, who knows when we would change our minds. About seven years ago, we went through the fiasco of selling a motorhome with the 10-year permit sticker left on the windshield. Jon’s name was on that permit, so he is no longer eligible to import any vehicle into Mexico. Not. Worth. It.
Squeezing the Southwind into a National Forest Site
     As it turns out, we did decide to sell our Southwind 32V motorhome. The idea started in July when we squeezed the Class A into a National Forest Service campsite, all 33 feet of it, plus another two feet for the bikes on the back. It was a very tight fit and especially nerve-wracking when we put out the bedroom slide, inching it out slowly to ensure we didn’t clip the trunk of the nearest old-growth tree. There was no way we could put out living room slide as the rig was surrounded by pine and fir trees.
Barely Room to Open the Bedroom Slide
     We wanted to be able to get into national parks and National Forest Service campgrounds, where they often limit RV length to 30 feet. We’ve wanted to camp at Crater Lake National Park for the past five years, but the Southwind length exceeded their limit. We love dry camping in national forest parks, partly because they are so beautiful and peaceful, we can have a campfire, and we love the great nightly discounted rate of only $10 to $12 with our Senior Pass. A smaller Class C rig would sure make this easier.
Jon Enjoys Barbecuing Hot-dogs Over the Campfire 
     Other reasons factored into this rather sudden decision to downsize our RV, including the fact that we had put 50,000 miles on the Southwind in the past five years, driving it on our 2014 tour of mainland Mexico and traveling back and forth to the US five times. But mainly, we wanted a rig that was easier to drive. Jon is 68 years old now and I’m 62—we’re getting to the age where driving a Class A feels like wrestling a bus down the road in a windstorm. This was the year for us to downsize.
Parking at Mom's House--Too big to Park Off-Street
     For the past two years, we have occasionally window-shopped online and at RV dealerships, half-heartedly thinking about downsizing. But this year when we walked into this 2009 28-foot Regency Triple e GT28DB, we felt like it was the motorhome we could make our new travel home. When we test-drove it, it felt like driving a large pickup truck, much more relaxing. But, boy, was it going to take a lot of downsizing!   
We Were Impressed with the Quality of this Class C RV
     Our Regency RV is a Class C is about 2 feet lower in height, which eliminates the large basement storage compartments that the Southwind has. It is also five feet shorter than the Southwind 32V. The Regency Triple e GT28DB is Canadian-manufactured, so when they call it 28 feet, that's actually 28 feet bumper to bumper. It has at least five feet less living space inside, so it lacks the hall closet, pantry, couch/bed and quite a few cabinets and drawers that the Southwind has. 
     We've had to get rid of quite a few things to downsize into this RV, but who needs a toaster and a blender in a motorhome anyway? And, really, why did I still have a full-size vacuum cleaner? The hardest things to part with were the propane barbecue and the ladder. They just won't fit in the small outside storage spaces of a Class C motorhome. Maybe it's time for a George Foreman Grill.
Another Garage Sale? Sell More Stuff!

     Another garage sale? We thought we were finished with selling excess stuff! Our son, Bleu, was very helpful with the Craig’s List ads and setting up the impromptu yard sale. This was just another step in simplifying our lives.
     We decided the bikes had to go, too. We'd been hauling them and the fancy bike-rack on the Southwind to México and back for three years and only ridden them twice. We tend to walk most of the time, ride the bus when we’re going longer distances, or take a taxi if needed, so it was obvious we didn’t really need bicycles any longer. Taking the bikes off the back makes our new rig feel a lot shorter—much easier around town.
No Bikes on the Back Makes this RV Clean and Compact
     The Southwind was a great home while we were full-time RVers for a year, touring México and the United States. But now that we have purchased a small home in Sayulita, Nayarit, México, where we live eight months of the year, our smaller Class C motorhome will be more comfortable for the 2400-mile drive from Oregon to México. We'll also enjoy our cozy little rig on long weekends when we visit Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Roca Azul, and other fun places we discover in México.    
We Were All Smiles When We Purchased Our 2009 Regency
The Walk-Around Queen Bed Was a Requirement for Us
Sewer & Water Connections in Smaller Compartments
     When we started moving into the 2009 Regency, we found a few treasures left behind by the previous owners that generated smiles and laughter. We discovered we had at least two common loves—our passion for dachshunds as companions and our enjoyment of wine. These gifts were sure signs that this Class C RV had found the right new owners.

Bella, Our Dachshund Security, an Early Warning Alarm
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

THE PAST SIX YEARS OF OUR TRAVELS AND LIFE IN MEXICO: Condensed into a Video

Just a Taste of Our Adventures!

We Love RVing and Living in Mexico!
     Here's a short video that condenses the past six years of our travels and life in México. This is just a taste of our adventures with many more in the future! We love RVing and living in México! Click the arrow below to watch our video. 
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Terry L Turrell, Author

Thursday, June 28, 2018

EASING BACK INTO RV LIFE IN THE US: Bisbee, Arizona and the Queen Mine Tour

We Finally Toured the Queen Mine, a Historic Copper Mine
    Returning to the United States after eight months in México can bring on major culture shock so we try to ease back into the madness. We find spending our first three days in Bisbee, Arizona is a good way to transition back into American life. This historic town moves slowly and, in many ways, still appears to be stuck in the early 1900s. It’s a perfect place for our shift from laid-back Sayulita, Nayarit to RV life on our way to Oregon.
View of Historic Bisbee, AZ from the Queen Mine RV Park

     We always stay at the Queen Mine RV Park, set on top of a hill above the old copper quarry, overlooking historic Bisbee. The entrance to the RV park is just past the Queen Mine Tours Visitors Center. Every time we pass the Visitors Center I say we should check out the tour. This year we decided to do it.


     The tour into the now closed copper mine was well worth the $13.00 price of admission.  After we were each outfitted in a reflective vest, hard hat, and mine light, we climbed aboard the mine train.
We Were Outfitted and Ready on the Mine Train

     Our tour guide, Pete, explained the safety rules and that once the train was inside the mine shaft, he would stop the train and make sure each of us was okay with being underground. The narrow tunnel is not a good place to be for a person who is claustrophobic.
Entering the Narrow Queen Copper Mine by Train

     Pete then climbed onto the orange battery-powered train engine, rang the train’s bell, and we moved forward toward the mine entrance. When the train was entirely inside the tunnel, the doors to the outside mine slammed closed and Pete stopped the train. He walked along each train-car, checking that all passengers were okay with being underground. Then he climbed back on the engine and we proceeded deeper into the earth.
Pete Climbed Back on the Engine After Checking All Passengers
     Pete is a retired miner who had actually worked for years in this mine and had some wonderful stories to tell us. Not only did he explain the process of mining the copper, he had many personal stories about the fun-loving pranks the miners played on each other.
Pete, a Retired Copper Miner, Told Stories of Pranks They Played 

      He told how in the early years, they trained mules to haul the ore out of the mine, and how hard the young guys worked to exceed their weekly quotas of ore in order to receive bonuses.   
Mules Hauled Four Cars at a Time, Loaded with Oar

     He explained that the focus was to extract the high percentage of copper, with silver and gold as byproducts. 
Stunning Azurite, One of Two Copper Carbonate Minerals in Nature
     Back in the Queen Mine’s museum area, we saw samples of the many ores, not just copper, that were extracted from this mine, including the stunning Azurite, one of the two copper carbonate minerals found in nature. There were also old mining tools and the mine’s Safety Scoreboard, emphasizing the importance of safety to avoid lost time accidents.
Queen Mine's Safety Scoreboard

History of the Mine from Bisbee’s Website:
Bisbee’s Queen Mine was one of the richest copper mines in history. The mine opened in 1877 and eventually closed when Phelps Dodge discontinued mining operations in Bisbee in the mid-1970’s. The Queen Mine opened once again as a tour for visitors in 1976, nearly 100 years after the mine originally opened.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

RAINY SEASON HAS STARTED IN TROPICAL MEXICO: We Go To Mazatlan!

It's Too Hot and Humid for Us!

June Rain in Lo de Marcos
     When Tropical Storm Bud was off the shore of Jalisco in mid-June, the rainy season started in the state of Nayarit. We normally stay at our home in Sayulita until the end of June or early July, but it became too hot and humid for us this year. Then the power was off and on for a week, which is generally tolerable as we have the ocean to jump into when we need to cool off. But this year it was off during some nights, too, and we couldn’t run our air conditioning. When I’m too hot to sleep, it’s time to head north.
     So, we moved to our motorhome in Lo de Marcos. The power was on there, though the rains continued. We spent several evenings sitting outside under our awning, watching and listening to the rain fall (view the video above) while we enjoyed a glass of wine and a light dinner of cheese, crackers, green olives, and apple slices. 


     The rain brings insects, some pretty, like butterflies that flit through the area. Others, such as scorpions, spiders, cockroaches, and other beetles, would start moving into our house if I hadn’t put down a barrier of Home Defense before we left. Knowing we could sleep in our bug-free, air-conditioned RV during the rainy season in the tropics lightened our moods.
So We Drove Our RV North to Sunny Mazatlán
     But the rain and gray skies continued, so we drove our RV north to Mazatlán, where we found blue skies and lower humidity. We love this beautiful city, so we decided to stay for a week, revisiting some of our favorite restaurants and exploring new neighborhoods. Our first night in town, we always go to FISH (Fresh International Seafood House) for our favorite dish, Shrimp and Chips with a fresh green salad. It was as delicious as always.     
San Fernando RV Park in Mazatlan Has Refreshing Pools
     We enjoyed our week at the San Fernando RV Park, the only RV park still open in the center of the Zona Dorada, two blocks from the bus route. The pool was clean and refreshing, the managers friendly and accommodating, and the park was quiet as we were the only RVers there during this warm month. It was like being on vacation! Well, except it appears they are using the park for an event center right now as there were rather large afternoon and evening parties around the pool for three of our seven days. The music was a bit loud, though nothing that earplugs couldn’t solve, and ended by 9PM.
Clear Blue Skies and Palm Trees of Mazatlán
      Walking through the Golden Zone to Ristorante Villa Italia on Avenida Camarón Sábalo for pizza, we couldn't get enough of the clear blue skies and mature palm trees of Mazatlán. Strolling to dinner that night gave us just over a half-mile of exercise, not a huge amount, but better than nothing. The bus ride back in the air-conditioned tourist bus cost us 22 pesos total, a little over $1 US, a benefit we appreciated after two glasses of Chilean wine with dinner.
Isla de Pájaros, Bird Island
     A walk down the beach to Chile’s Pepper for a lunch of chicken fajitas gave us a prime seat to watch the action around Isla de Pájaros, Bird Island. A group of five kayakers were paddling to shore from the island, a small cabin cruiser passed between us and the island, and a boat pulling a parasailer cruised by. The view from the beach in the Zona Dorada hasn’t changed much since we were last here. Things are relatively quiet this time of year since most of the gringos are gone and the Mexican family summer holidays have not yet started.
     The Plazuela Machado in the Historic District is still gorgeous. The newly refurbished Malecón with a two-way bike lane is the biggest change. It's great to see many cyclists and rollerbladers cruising along the seawall, separated from the strollers and joggers.
The Original Pancho's in Mazatlan
     Major changes are happening along Avenida Gaviotas, with a new Marriott, condominiums, and commercial high-rises in various stages of construction. As we walked to dinner for a Father’s Day treat at the original Pancho's restaurant overlooking the ocean, we hardly recognized the neighborhood for all of the changes. Pancho’s had the same charming ambiance, though, with some new Mexican pottery on display that was worth a photo. The restaurant was especially quiet, so we were pampered even more than usual. 
Beautiful Mexican Pottery at Pancho's
     The Camarones Especiales, large prawns stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon, then broiled to perfection, were decadently delicious. After sharing that meal, we splurged on an extravagant dessert of chocolate cake a la mode. Another of our good memories at Pancho’s.
     After eating all of this rich food, I decided we needed to attend a Zumba class. Checking Zumba.com for nearby classes, I found one listed at Parque Tabachines, Tabachines Park, just a mile bus ride south on Avenida Camarón Sábalo and then another mile-long walk down Avenida Lomas de Mazatlán. We found the park, but no Zumba class. Instead, we found an outdoor gymnasium with various types of workout equipment.
Terry on the Mechanical Cross-Trainer
Jon Doing Pull-Ups on a Weight-Assisted Machine
     We exercised for about forty minutes, completing the circuit twice. After walking the mile back to the bus stop, we had reached our 10,000 steps for the day. That’s enough that we could have dinner at Ristorante Villa Italia againmaybe Fettuccine Alfredo with Prawns this time.
     We exercise so we can eat these delicious, calorie-laden meals. We splurge on restaurant food while we are in México because once we hit the United States, prices will more than double. Living in México is like being on vacation full-time, with a 50% discount.

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