Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back to Nature

I needed a nature fix, so we headed over to Laguna Atascosa NWR for a looksee.  Green Jays and Painted Buntings are popular in this area, so they were on my list.  Since over 400 species of birds have been recorded (more than any other NWR in the US), I was looking forward to spotting a lot of new creatures, including the ocelot.  It was an easy ride and we arrived at the Visitor's Center around 11 am.  A whiteboard at the door listed sightings, and a computer inside was for registering rare sightings. Paved pathways close to the building didn't yield much except for a wood rat's nest.

We could hear birds all around us, but the brush and mesquite trees kept them hidden and difficult for pictures.  At a bird blind we saw a large bird of prey, but too well hidden to identify it.  The boys had pulled the lunch bags from the truck and were at a picnic table.  Donna and I were trying to get a good shot of a large brown bird in the brush, when Ron came over and said there were about a dozen of those right near the picnic table.  Sure enough, the chacalacas were milling around waiting for a handout.

A male cardinal joined in, and then some green jays.  They especially enjoyed our orange pieces.

 Back at the feeding station, a red winged blackbird joined the jays for some seed and nibbles of grapefruit.

The boys were getting tired of us taking umpteen photos of the same thing, so we decided to do the 15 mile loop around the reserve.  One of the first things we came across was a pile of deer droppings, which I knew you would love to see.  

The drive nears the Laguna Madre, where we walked out onto a pier.  A large heron had just gone fishing successfully.

The sand flats yielded footprints which were either deer or javelina. 

And there were scores of red headed ducks and their mates.

I'm guessing this is a red shouldered hawk.

Finally a lone coyote looking lost on the sand bank.

An American Kestrel tried to catch something in the grass, but lost it.
Near the end of the route, a deer bounded across the road and into the brush.    So all in all, we had a beautiful day of nature.  Ahhhh.  It's a good life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Feliz Cumpleanos

Back to my old self again, and Saturday dawned with a beautiful sun and a little breeze.  Ron washed the top of his trailer while Donna, Gary and I got our bikes ready for a ride.  While we were doing that, a car stopped and said hi.  It was Dave and Arlene whom we had met back in 2010 in Virginia.  They are in Port Aransas and had driven all the way down to see us!  We pulled chairs around, made introductions to Donna and Ron and chatted for a couple hours.

Last year we met about this time in Florida where we met at Lake Placid spending the day enjoying the murals painted on assorted buildings.  Their plans this summer include a trip with a few other couples to Alaska, and they kindly asked us to go along. We have been talking about it every day.  So we'll see after our gate guarding deal. 

We said temporary goodbyes until we meet again.  Friends make this whole experience so wonderful!


Later that evening, after a beautiful sunset we headed over to the Recreation Center and enjoyed a family singing group called Lindley Creek comprised of the Greer family, mom, dad, son (17) and daughter (15).  A little bluegrass, gospel and popular tunes made the evening very enjoyable!  And the trip to DQ afterwards made it even a more enjoyable day.

Sunday was my birthday and after a morning of bagels, we decided to go to Mexico!  It was about 50 miles to Nuevo Progresso at the border.  This was the safest spot for tourists to visit. 

We parked for $2 on the US side and walked over the pedestrian bridge.  All we carried was our passports, cash and a shopping bag.

Over the Rio Grande
In the far distance on the horizon to the right of the river you might be able to see the tall fence on the border.

Basically you walk down one side of the street past vendors selling all kinds of jewelry, purses, and souvenirs.  The shops are like grocery stores, with just as much stuff as on the sidewalks.  All I was looking for was some Mexican candy for our grands' Valentine's Day treats.  That mission accomplished, we breezed past dentists, mani-pedi shops, hair salons and pharmacies.  Many people have recommended dentists here for their good work and better prices.  At the RV-Dreams rally, there was a list of recommended offices for dental work.  We are due for a cleaning, so maybe we'll return.  You have to wait for that, and can't make an appointment, so maybe Sunday would be a good day.

It was time for some real Mexican food, and Arturo's was suggested by Donna and Ron.  Waiters in black tie met you at the door and sat you at linen covered tables.  The water was from the Culligan Man, so it was safe to drink.  However, Donna and I had Margaritas.  Whoa!  They were so sour we had to put a package of Splenda in our glass.  And talk about strong.  Well, we ate great and felt good, and almost left a $50 tip.  Caught that in time. 
Arturo's Mexican Especiale
We walked out into sunshine again and finished each side of the street.  [You didn't venture off the main track].  We saw some sad signs of extreme poverty, but mostly everyone looked bored.

Soon it was time to head home.  We joined the customs/immigration line which took about 10 minutes.  I was hoping for a stamp in our passports, but alas, no.  He didn't even notice it was my birthday.  On the US side, we stopped for a bite of ice cream to clear the dust from our throats, and then we piled into the truck for the ride back.

I'm still looking for another javelina.  I saw one with a baby on a ride somewhere, but didn't know it was a javelina.  I thought it was just a pig.   We have seen longhorns, great-tailed grackles which make the oddest sounds, plenty of gulls (being on the island), and some birds I can't identify.  They look like young red-winged blackbirds, but I couldn't find them in a book.  Maybe someone can id them?

At home we arrived just in time for another lovely sunset.

It's a good life.

Friday, January 18, 2013

This Week in SPI

Monday was rainy, cold and windy, so we decided to go see a movie.  We had a choice of Lincoln, Parental Guidance and Guilt Trip.  We wanted an upbeat film, and Guilt Trip starred Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogan, so we chose that.  It was entertaining, and had a great ending. Basically, it reminded one that mothers are people, too, not just mothers.  I recommend it.

Still rainy and ugly when we came out of the building, so we headed back to the rigs for some Shepherd's Pie/stew I had made. 

Tuesday, Donna and Ron decided to stay in their rig and recuperate.  They've been having an awful time with coughing, medications not working well, and were really exhausted.  Just as we were about to leave, the power went off.  Someone said it was all over the island.  Someone else said it was just part of the island.  So we took a chance and headed over to BaddaBing Bagels in the middle of the island. They had power and we discovered that the north and south of the island and portions of Port Isabelle - on the north and south end of the island and part of Port Isabelle (over the bridge) did not have power! So we had a very nice conversation with a new restaurant owner and a couple who have been coming to SPI for 10 years.  So far, our adventures have all been about food!

It was another cold, blustery day, but I needed some more trim for my curtains, so Gary and I drove up to Harlingen to Hobby Lobby.  It's a good thing Gary likes to 'shop' because I spent about an hour in there [and went back again before we left for home].  But we had a good day hanging out together.

Later, in bed, we noticed that we could hear eachother!  The wind had died down to a low breeze.  I can understand why people in California have a difficult time with the Santa Ana winds.  It really gets on your nerves. 

Wednesday we woke to clouds and sun and a breeze.  It made it up to 66 degrees in the afternoon, where we joined the Winter Texans for Happy Hour.  It's a nice group of people, some from Canada.  In fact, Eddie's wife, in Sudbury, had just won over $25,000 in a penny slot machine!  It's a good thing she didn't come down with Eddie.  We sat around trying to come up with ideas for spending it!

Thursday we went down to Brownsville for the first time.  We found a Denny's for breakfast and looked around.  We did find Michael's where we got some ingredients for crafts we will be doing later.  I wasn't feeling that well, and after dinner at Donna's, we soon called it a night, where I climbed into bed with a small fever.  Been fighting something ever since flu shot, so I blame it on that.

I slept on and off all night, and this morning didn't feel up to going to a show with Donna and Ron and their friends Claire and Dave.  It's a beautiful day - finally - Gary continued to wash Bella, while I lounged around inside, even starting on the taxes.  Tonight is shrimp night, so I'd better buck up!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Enjoying Texas

This morning Gary and I got our flu shot at Walgreens, while Donna and Ron spent the day going between the Doctor's and drugstores.  They both have a touch of pnemonia and are taking lots of drugs.  If the sun would come out and it would get warmer, it might help us all feel better...

Later that night we had some yummy chile at Donna's.

Gary and I headed to the bank to sign our closing papers and Friday is closing day.  Hooray!
We went to Louie's Backyard for bargain night with wings - delicious and only .25 each!  Free sides, too.  Rain and cold and windy.

The sun came out on Thursday and it reached 68 degrees!  Still very breezy, but Louie's ribs made up for it.  Great price, too.

Friday we headed to the RV show in Harlingen.  Donna and Ron talked to the owner about their Excel.
Apparently the show was smaller than other years.  No motorhomes, mostly trailers and park models.  However, that night we went to Papa's for all you can eat fried shrimp. 
We ended up eating 71 shrimp between us.  I have never had such sweet tender fresh shrimp ever.  This will be our Friday night dinner for the duration of our stay here. 
Saturday it was cold and windy again, so we went up island to Market Days at the Convention Center.  It was a lot of jewelry and stuff.  That took about an hour, so we decided to drive north on the island and suddenly made a decision to go off road onto the beach and try out our 4-wheel drive.   

Sunday morning was hideously ugly outside, rainy, winds at 25-30 mph and 48 degrees.  Time for some warm food.  Manuels' has 22 inch tortillas filled with anything you'd like.  We waited about 10 minutes for a table and ordered.  We chose eggs, chorizo, guacamole and s. cream.  We shared, of course, and it was fabulous!  That'll be a Sunday morning ritual!  Since I sewed our new curtains for the bedroom, we ate out at Joe's Oyster Bar.  The boys had 15 fried oysters for $6.00 and Donna and I had three huge flounder filets for $7.  I tell you, it's cheap to eat down here! 

Even though it was horrible weather all day, we did get a sunset. 
 Life is still good!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Look - We're on Water!

It took a little convincing, and a definite ‘it will be fine’ from Jim, our camphost at Hidden Lake to get Gary on board for taking the Galveston Ferry from Bolivar Point to Galveston.  The road to the dock was simple on Rte 124, an uncrowded six lane down to the island.  Can’t miss the boarding ramp, even though it was a little drizzly and windy. 
 A gentleman turned off our propane tank and we got in line.  The ferry was unloading, and then it was our turn.  It was going to be a little tight, but a little Vaseline helped us slip in between cars on the left and right. 
Again, a gentleman guided us right up to the front on the left side.  Ta da.  We jumped out to see the dolphins and gulls.  White pelicans were on the left along with a couple huge ships.

   The whole trip was 20 minutes long and we were the fourth off the boat.  Who could believe you could put a motorhome on a boat, and go across the bay for free!

We made our way north toward Houston, but turned left onto Rte. 6 that bypassed the outer loop and headed us in a southerly direction where we put up for the night in Ganado.

We haven’t seen the sun since we left Florida and it’s been getting colder and colder.  Sure hope this Canadian air blows outta here soon – I miss my flip flops!

Wednesday I actually thought was Thursday, and we headed out before I knew it.  Duh.  This is what this life is like.  So we stayed at Shady Oaks two nights.  Rain again and cold. 

Donna and Ron were having trouble with construction, a fender bender, traffic and was way behind schedule.  So we hung out at a rest area for a little while until we got the call to head to exit 83 towards the town of Peggy!  Ha. 

Just as we got to the exit we saw them coming south and exiting too.  We pulled into the Gate Guard office and gave hugs all around.

Just in time, we hustled into the office and met Diane to put in our request to guard at a double gate if at all possible.  We'll see how that works out.  She told us to pull around the building to park for the night.  We did and left for Pleasanton for dinner at Chile's enjoying the twofer. 
Gary's first Texas beer
Things are far apart down this part of Texas.  So we got up early and headed out on Hwy 37 towards Corpus Christie.  We didn't go far at all when we noticed white smoke and the smell of burning rubber from Ron's fiver on the left side.  I called to tell them to pull over.  Ron took a look and discovered the his two tires (double axel) were touching thus the burn smell.  Underneath, the spring bolt had sheered off and the metal was bent.  Well, we thought we were done for, but Ron got out his tools, got underneath the rig (which was tilting on the left jacks about 105 degree angle and giving Donna and me in Bella heart attacks everytime a truck rode by pushing it around) and fixed it in about 45 minutes!!!  Miracle worker!  He had to bend that metal piece straight and put a new bolt in it.  And he did it!  And Gary helped.

We continued on our way in the drizzle and cold until we made it to SPI.  Hurray!  We checked in, got to our spots and turned off the engines.  Home for the next six weeks!

We have a beautiful view of the marina about 50 yards away to our right and Laguna Madre straight ahead.  
Our first sunset from our front window
Sunday we decided to go to the DonWes flea market, and it was great!  Cold and windy in the morning, but it got up to 56 with a little sunshine in the afternoon.  Live music in the lunch room, and Gary got a black cowyboy hat (for winter) and a couple of other little finds. 

Monday it got up to 64 and was sunny in the morning when we washed the Jeep and bikes.  We should have taken a before and after picture.  I didn't even recognize Mesa under all that dirt.  But she cleaned up pretty and so did the bikes.  Bella is still filthy, so no picture of our spot yet.  A storm front is approaching for Tuesday overnight, but by noon Wednesday, it should be sunny and 78!  Yay!  Flip flops!

After lunch we drove to Harlingen to Hobby Lobby for fabric, and the boys went to Big Lots for a new hose sprayer handle thingy.  We stopped at Walmart to see if we could get flu shots, but only Walgreens has them now.  We'll go tomorrow.  Picked up bread and water (the water is not good down here), and went out to dinner at Louie's Backyard for fajitas and margaritas.  Very good!  Now, it just needs to get a little warmer and sunnier and then it will be the kind of winter we like!