February 2 to February 8, 2009
February 3, 2009 - Parked at Laguna de Maria, Colima
Tonight we're one of two rigs parked at Laguna de Maria. Never heard of the place? You'll find it in the Mexico Updates section of this website - and in the upcoming fourth edtion of Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping.
Looming overhead is a semi-active volcano, the Volcán de Colima. Wisps of steam are visible as they rise from the rim. A semi-reassuring government reader board outside the entrance to the campground maps out evacuation routes in the event of an eruption.
Fortunately the volcano seems pretty quiet this evening. Just before dark we stroll down to the lake to see if any unusual birds happen to be active - and spot our first Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush. The picnic sites along the lake are quiet this time of year with only the occasional visitor, particularly during the week.
This has long been a popular birding destination. The definitive birding location guide to Mexico, A Bird-finding Guide to Mexico by Steve N.G. Howell, describes the place thouroghly. Fortunately Howell is a little out of date - the access road is no longer dirt and you don't have to ford a rushing stream en route as described in his book.
Even if you have no interest in Mexican birds you'll still find this a rewarding place to stay. At 4,200 feet it's much cooler and less humid than nearby coastal destinations in Melaque or along the Michoacan coast. The counryside up here is green and beautiful. The very interesting capital city of Colima is an easy day trip, it takes about an hour to drive down the hill. A little closer is Comala, one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos. Comala is a great place to shop, and to have a meal in one of the restaurants adjoining the central plaza.
Electric Meters - Good or Bad?
Electricity is expensive in Mexico, usually in the range of four pesos (now about $ .30 US) per kilowatt hour. That makes electricity a huge factor in RV park operating expenses and therefore in RV park camping prices.
Do you know how much electricity you use? A Kilowatt Hour is 1,000 watts for one hour, or 100 watts for 10 hours. Sounds like a lot of electricity doesn’t it?
It really isn’t. We recently stayed at a park with meters and found that in our small slide-in camper we use about 7 kilowatt hours per day if we use no air conditioning but spend the normal three to four hours plunking away on our computers. That works out to about $ 2 US in electricity use per day. Campground owners tell us that big rigs using air conditioning often use between 30 and 50 kilowatt hours per day. In Mexico that’s $9 US to $15 US per day that must be paid to the electrical company.
As you might expect, campground owners also tell us that electrical usage goes way down when meters are installed and rates are based upon actual electrical consumption. That's no surprise.
So we can see big benefits in the installation of electrical meters and charges for actual electrical use in Mexican campgrounds. Here are some of the benefits:
1. Campgrounds can install 30-amp service with no fear of being driven out of business by big energy users.
2. Campgrounds can extend the period they are open into the hot season, again, without fear of being driven out of business by extensive use of air conditioners.
3. Big energy users pay their own way.
4. Energy is conserved.
In the meantime there will be another less obvious economic consequence:
1. All other things being equal, big rigs will tend to migrate to parks with no meters. That will result in an increase in rates in those parks. Or, it will force them to install meters too.