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Letters To The Editor

May 31st, 2010

I’ve gotten a lot of emails about recent articles on moving south of the border. Keep in mind that we’re simply sharing ideas, and while they’re possibly provocative, they are meant to encourage you to think “outside the box.” What works for some people won’t work for others. Here’s a sample email I received:

Dear Editor,

I was very alarmed to see two things. The letter from David & Diane from Alaska and your follow-up article about possibly living in Mexico if things “go south” (pun intended).

I am a born and raised San Diego County native who works with an animal sanctuary located in Rosorito, Mexico. Rosorito is between TJ and Ensenada.

Many of the things that David and Diane mentioned are true in resort towns where the U.S. dollar makes things go. I have been to Mazetlan & Puerto Vallarta. Very nice places. And yes, TJ, Rosorito, and Ensenada are not as bad as the media would have you believe.

But if the U.S. falls, there goes the top GNP of Mexico. Migrant money sent back home and our tourist dollars are the biggest source of income to that country.

And things are not always rosy south of the border. The other day banditos came and stole all the copper wiring from the animal sanctuary. I talked to the director, and she said, “Oh, yeah, that happens about every 6 months or so.” And that is during peace time!

And sure, the Hispanic people are very warm and friendly to us (and our dollars) now. But when times get tough and we are not bringing in the big bucks, are we still going to be welcome down there?

Just something to keep in mind. Thanks – Lew

Editor’s reply: Lew, one of our writers lives south of the border and I asked him to share his thoughts. He responded as follows. “People who live in the southwest of the U.S. are inundated with immigrants and many of the problems that come with this. The northern part of Mexico is ground zero for the drug war, and all this makes the nightly news. What you never hear about is the other 80% of Mexico that is not crime infested or living in squalor. I’ve traveled all over southern Mexico and the Yucatan and what you’ll find are friendly people, a low cost of living, and greater safety than you’ll find in big cities in the U.S. Sure there are problems, but for me the prospects of ‘surviving’ here are infinitely better, especially when you consider that the U.S. government is our likely greatest threat (in terms of tyranny), whereas the Mexican government can hardly organize a press conference on time.”

Here’s a reader replying to the “Get Out of Dodge Vehicle”:

What kind of vehicle? Good question. I tend to think in terms of trucks and SUVs. Since they’re heavier duty than a car, they can take more abuse and will last you longer.

Choice of vehicle? Buy or keep what you’ve got? If you’re staying put, it’s almost moot. If ya gotta go, pick something durable that can haul what you need and can go where you need to go.

New vs. used? No contest there. I personally prefer used over new, mostly because I can’t see enriching the salesman by buying a vehicle that’s going to depreciate by as much as one third when I drive it off the lot. Of course, you also have the punitive high taxes and “new car” insurance to go with the high price of said vehicle. Oh also, don’t plan on doing any repairs yourself. Just about anything will require taking it back to the dealer (and their higher prices). Definitely not “surviving the big one” type of vehicle .

There are big advantages to purchasing a used vehicle. Parts as a rule are cheaper and available from parts stores and junk yards. Older vehicles also tend to be heavier duty, not like today’s which are designed for comfort and style.

What brand or manufacturer? While two of my vehicles are Fords, you can’t go wrong with a good solid older Chevy or GMC truck. Suburbans are great and just about bullet proof (before ’95). Of the four Suburbans I’ve owned, my favorite was an ’89 3/4 ton 4×4 GMC with 4:10 ratio rear end. It would go anywhere and climb anything. Fords are very good trucks, but anybody who has worked on one will tell you that a lot of the time you will have to go back to the dealer for some parts. Chevy’s parts however, can be found just about anywhere—parts stores, Barns, swap meets, flea markets. The parts are also widely interchangeable. I had an ’80 K5 Blazer (the big one, not the toy version), with a ’71 Chevelle 350 V8, ’88 stainless steel exhaust head pipes, and I converted the ignition from points type to HEI with a ’76 distributor. Try that with a Ford.

My current WTDWTSHTF vehicle is a ’84 Chevy military pickup, with only 45,000 miles. It’s essentially a beefed up K30, rated for 1 1/4 tons and is diesel fired. The motor has 22:1 compression (today’s diesels run 17:1), so I can run straight cooking oil once it’s warm. In fact, it will run on kerosene, coal oil, lamp oil, or heating oil. If it can’t climb the proverbial brick wall, it can still push it down. It’s got to be one of the easier vehicles I’ve ever worked on, and definitely one of the heaviest duty. You can purchase one of these for $2500 to $7000. The K5 Blazer version has the same motor, and those can be found for the same price or cheaper.

Oh by the way, if you’re driving a truck-type vehicle, 70,000 miles is considered low. In fact, it’s really not even broken in good yet. The K5 Blazer was donated to Goodwill with over 400,000 miles. I gave them a rear end to fix it, and now I occasionally see it going down the road.

Richard Ray

And another email on the supply of gasoline:

In your most recent email, you advised that in a state of an oil supply disruption, that areas that are near oil production would have cheap and plentiful gasoline supplies, while other areas would be cut off. “Some places, with easy access to domestic oil sources, may have plentiful and inexpensive gasoline while others are completely cut off.”

Observation of human behavior, plus economic theory, should tell us that in a state of oil supply disruption there will not be plentiful and inexpensive gasoline anywhere, and what should be looked at is the refining centers, not the producing areas. Everybody will have access to gasoline, with those closest to refineries paying a less exorbitant price than those thousands of miles away. For one thing, there are thousands of miles of pipelines in North America, but even where there are no pipelines, some profit-minded entity will undertake the cost and risk to take any plentiful relatively cheaper substance to a place where that item is scarce and can be sold for substantial profit. As an example, consider Alaska. The natives there can buy salmon for next to nothing. That doesn’t mean we can’t buy it, we just pay more because of intermediaries. If there was a severe and serious shortage or disruption of worldwide salmon supply, even Alaskans would pay dearly for a scarce resource, even though it was a local resource. Alternatively our milk is cheap down here in the lower 48, but in Alaska it is very expensive…they end up buying milk produced in Washington state, paying a lot more than someone living in Washington state, but the point is they can still buy it. Even if milk becomes scarcer everywhere, Alaskans could still buy it, they would just have to outbid others to continue getting milk. Another example would be those living close to a gold mine don’t get to buy gold much cheaper than the rest of the world. Shortages drives up prices for everyone, but the availability is spread out to those who have resources to acquire the scarce item.

Personally, I think what we have seen during hurricanes when we got an oil supply disruption is what we can extrapolate in a real crisis if we use a minimum factor of ten. Hurricane Katrina caused gas prices to go up 30% on the east coast, maybe less on the west coast, but everybody paid more, and the price at the pump was a little less closer to refineries. In the case of a world war with the Middle East as a flash point, we could easily see gasoline gyrate between $50 to $100 per gallon, with gas stations better armed than a bank branch. So everyone would have access, but not all would be able to afford it, but by no means would anyone have cheap and plentiful gas with the exception of Arabs that 1) have refining capacity 2) didn’t have their wells were not on fire and 3) had a glut of oil that could not make it past the Strait of Hormuz because of war.

I enjoy all of your articles and look forward to every one of them. They stimulate a lot of thought for me. I just wanted to give you my views on the matter.

If you would like to mail the editor, please email [email protected]. If you’ve logged in to the archive site, you can also reply to Reader Submission and Published Articles on the site itself.

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