Thursday, July 1, 2004


Every summer we try to visit Gun Lake, Yankee Springs Recreation Area, near Hastings, Michigan for 2 weeks of summer fun. We fish, we swim, we boat, we have campfires, somemores and other campfire goodies, singalongs with Larry's guitar to accompany our attempts at being "Elvis", pot luck dinners, fishing and a little nap taking. We go with our great friends, Larry and Mary, Don and Kathy.

Gun Lake is over 2000 acres of water, some deep, but a lot of that acreage is rather shallow, about 4 to 6 feet. There are great beaches. There are some great restaurants, for those days when we just don't feel like burning hot dogs on the grill. There are a number of golf courses nearby, so Al can play his annual 9 holes of golf. It is one of our favorite campgrounds and we look forward to each summer of camping there with our friends.

Before we leave home, we gather fishing poles, golf clubs, beach toys and chairs, awning house, all the toys we will NEED (err, make that WANT) while we are at the lake.

It is about 120 miles from home to Gun Lake, so Carol drives the van and pulls the pontoon boat, Al drives the truck and pulls the Montana 5er.

We go, we play, we enjoy!

The photos are just a glimpse at Gun Lake Camping, AKA, pack that campsite as full as you can with fun and toys!

Above, the pontoon boat trailer, the van, the Montana 5er
with the shade awning installed, creating a great place
to sit and chat under the large awning.

Above, another view of the shade awning. Notice lots
of "carpets" on the ground, this campground is so heavily
used that the grass never has a chance to grow,
or very little chance. That is our GM truck in the background.

The clothes drying rack. Below the Montana
are beach toys and fishing gear.

Above, our pontoon boat, parked at the end of our campsite
on the channel, we can walk right out of the Montana and onto the boat.
( What a way to go! )
You can see the lake at the right of the photo. Also our awning house,
which is used primarily for shade for the yorkies.
Yes, we know, they are spoiled rotten dogs.

Above, another view of the Montana 5er, the GM
 truck, and the van in the background.

Above: Using that campsite! Al cooking dinner.
Here you can see the shade and awning, the picnic table,
the awning house and in the very back of the photo you can
 just see the teal of the canapy of the pontoon boat.

Can't wait for next year!!

P.S. A limited number of campsites at Gun Lake are on the channel, we were very lucky to be able to reserve this campsite. We enjoyed every moment, realizing that we might not be that lucky next year!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, April 22, 2004, Summary

We parked the Montana in tight campsites by working at it hard for 45 minutes and we parked in pull through sites at the end of a hard day’s drive. It was 3 above zero when we left here, and it hit almost 90 degrees a few days in Donna Texas. We sat through some real windy days in Donna, I mean WINDY. We sat through a few nasty rain storms. We also had some days of absolutely perfect weather, sunny, warm, soft breezes and heavenly smells of grapefruit trees in bloom. We parked near our share of railroad tracks, enough that our little Captain Hook stopped shaking every time a train went by. He used to shake uncontrollably every time, now he ignores the trains.

If it sounds like we are ready to go on our next adventure, we are. We love the challenge and the variety of life in a RV. We get to experience so many different cultures, foods, people. Our theme song, just might be, “On The Road Again.”

Here are some photos, curtesy of Keystone RV Company of a Montana 5th Wheel and the Interior of the 3295RK, which is the model we own.

This photo of the exterior of a Montana Fifth Wheel was taken from
the 2003 brochure, Keystone RV Company. Our 5er looks similar.

This is a photo of the interior of the 3295RK, from the 2003 brochure, Keystone RV Company. This is about what your 3295 will look like upon delivery from the manufacturer. You will note in the far left bottom corner, this unit has a fireplace, ours does not. We also do not have the curtains on our unit, a personal choice that we are very happy with. We have not taken any photos of the inside of our unit, when we get around to that, I will post them somewhere on the web pages. * Thank you Keystone for such great photos in your catalogs.

The end of the Adventure of 2004, REALLY!!

*Photos of our rig and improvements can be found at Carol's Reflections From the Fence, And More

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, April 21, 2004, Retrospect

April 22, 2004

Run over to Elkhart and have the axle checked for alignment, camber and whatever they check on axles. Ours is out, and has caused a large amount of uneven wear on the tires. We have about 6,000 miles on the unit and will be buying new tires. This is not covered under warranty, the axle is only covered for 90 days. This is not going to be a cheap repair, we are not thrilled, but it has to be done, it is a safety issue. No question, it has to be fixed and the tires must be replaced.

Leave Elkhart and head over the Michigan state line to US 12, homebound at long last. We have been away from Tipton for 13 weeks, drove almost 4,000 miles with the trailer, driven through 10 states, visited in 8 of them for more than one night. Visited Mexico on 4 separate days, enjoyed it and had great food there. Ate in a LOT of great restaurants, from Mexican to Barbeque. Carol hit 4 major research facilities, over 10 cemeteries, several more public libraries, and met so many nice researchers and staff people in all of these facilities. We went on tours in New Orleans, San Padre Island Texas, Mexico, San Antonio Texas, and Independence Missouri. We went on educational tours to a aloe vera and citrus farm near Donna Texas.

We started our trip out with a visit with Al’s cousin, ended the trip with a visit with another of his cousins. Visited Carol’s cousins in between. Visited friends along the way, and met so many nice people. Stayed in one horrid campground for one night and a lot more really nice campgrounds every other night we were out. We saw oil wells, prairie dogs, buffalo, and some very interesting birds and wildlife.

We had our first encounter with “Instant Phones” at campgrounds. Have to admit, we kinda like that set up! Used the internet via the cell phone, instant phone (regular phone lines is what that is), and high speed cable modem. We used the internet in public libraries, in our trailer and in campground offices.

We followed spring from Texas back to Michigan. When we got back to Tipton the forsythia was in full brilliant bright yellow bloom. My star magnolias, both the pink and the white were in full bloom and were so pretty when we got home. My tulips and daffodils were also in full bloom when we arrived in Tipton. The Canadian geese are in the swamp behind the house, honking their springtime mating calls. The peepers are starting their nightly lullaby. Did not realize how much we missed the home “noises” till we got back and heard them.

We would like to go back to a lot of the places we visited, that is always a strong indicator of how much fun you had! We are both moaning that we would like to go back to New Orleans and Kansas City for some of the wonderful food we ate there, ditto for Progreso Mexico.

We discovered we could sit for over 6 weeks in one park. Totally amazed us that we could do that. We enjoyed the park in Donna Texas so much that we used only ONE tank of gas in the truck in 4 weeks. Several of the tours we went on we did not have to drive, and we were perfectly happy to hang out in the park and take part in the variety of activities that were available. Al played pool, Carol went to genealogy club, we went to the pool, we lazed around and just rested.

We were saddened to hear that a few weeks after we left Donna Texas that there was a terrible explosion over in Progreso Mexico. Several people died, the explosion destroyed a restaurant and surrounding businesses on the main street of town. It happened early in the morning, if it had happened just a few hours later the streets and restaurant would have been filled with tourists, the death toll would have been much higher. Our prayers go out to the families of those who died.

Living in the Montana is a joy, lots of living area, lots of storage area, which we kinda filled up (gifts, and dog food put a dent in all that storage). Love that desk, love the kitchen set up. The floor plan is perfect for our lifestyle and travel style. For those of you who have never seen the floor plan, here it is:

Floorplan courtesy Keystone.

The 2004 Adventure, April 18 to 21, 2004, Illinois & Indiana, Homeward Bound

Before we left Independence we took the opportunity to take the tour of the President Truman home. You can only visit the first floor, the second floor is reserved for the use of their daughter, Margaret, who is near 80 years old and lives out east. The yard is kept planted with the same plants as the Truman’s had in the last years of their lives, some of the plants were put in to provide some privacy. The house is kept the same as the day Bessie died. Even the dishrag was left hanging on the kitchen faucet. (Got to tell you, it looks a bit icky. LOL) His coat and hat hang by the backdoor, you can imagine him putting them on and sneaking out the back door for a walk around town (he did not like the Secret Service protection that started after President Kennedy died). The home is owned by the People of the United States, and is a National Park Service facility.

April 18, 2004.

A travel day, we leave Independence and head east, going around St. Louis and heading into Illinois. Pretty uneventful day, which is always a good thing when we are traveling. We stop for lunch in a place with a nice big parking lot, which we will find out later, left us with more than lunch.

April 19, 2004

Nice day, but Al discovers a flat tire on the Montana. Every once in a while ya get one, we suspect we got ours yesterday at the lunch stop, we were happy it was not a blow out, just a slow leaker, so we got to the campground and did not discover the tire was flat till this morning. We call Good Sam, we wait 2 hours, the fellow that comes out is nice, but his tools are lacking some and he ends up using some of ours. Al has to watch him like a hawk as he starts to jack the trailer up via the axle. We find a nail in the tire. If you are gonna have a flat tire, this is the way to do it, we are not on the road, or the side of the road with trucks and cars whizzing by. We are not freezing, it is not raining, it is not blistering hot. We are sitting in a very pretty little campground with new owners that are as nice as could be. We are safe and reasonably comfortable. The tire did not shred into many pieces at 60 MPH and damage the trailer. (We will see such damage just 2 days later, what a mess this guy had.)

When we have the spare on, we take off and head for Indianapolis, we have a short drive day, so we still arrive in camp by 5ish, plenty of time to set up and relax. Oh, we find out this campground is open all year, which is good to know, campgrounds open all year round this far north are far and few between. We will remember this one!

April 20, 2004

Spend the day visiting with Al’s cousin Martha. Thank you Martha and Dick for a great day, it was great to see you and that special new room.

April 21, 2004

We are up and out of the campground very early today, on the road before 8 A.M. We usually don’t get rolling till 9 or 9:30. We have been asked to bring the Montana to Goshen for inspection of some warranty issues we have. Since Keystone wants to see us, we want to go there! We drive the Indiana road 15 north to 13 north. Except for unmarked detours, in is a rather pleasant drive though farmland and true mid-western America. We arrive on time, have our inspection, make some arrangements to have the warranty work done, and after a very long day rest our tired bones at the Elkhart County Fair Grounds.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, April 9 to 17, 2004, Family Research, Independence Missouri, Topeka Kansas

April 9, 2004

Arkansas City Kansas to Independence Missouri.

Day started out wet, drove a good part of the day in rain.

Interesting things we see along the way: Large areas of burnt land, acres and acres, as far as the eye can see. Seems this is done to get rid of undesired grasses and to encourage the growth of the grasses that are good for grazing cattle. The area between El Dorodo and Emporia Kansas was very pretty, burnt fields and all.

Drove into the campground and found a first, not only do they have speed limits and quiet hours, they have a NO SMOKING campground! They even have a sign posted at the entrance. We have instant phone here, one could get hooked on that service! HA HA. The owners are very nice.

Set up and prepare more to do lists, the Mid-Continent Library is just down the street. They have a very good collection and of course, lots of Kansas City Missouri stuff.

April 10, 2004

Research! Had a pretty good day of research. The staff is great at Mid-Continent. It is organized very well, readers and printers are in good shape. Tired at the end of the day, and happy with the results.

April 11, 2004

Happy Easter.

We spend the day in camp, doing chores and cooking our Easter dinner.

April 12, 2004

We drive to Topeka. I have a little bit of Kansas research left, 4 obits, and some other work. Get to the Kansas Historical Museum and find it is closed on Mondays. Ooops. Tactical error. My fault, I did not call or check it out on the web. SOOO, for some reason, we decide to go over to the building and have a hard look anyway, see if they really are closed. Well, they are, sorta. Al found a nice young lady and cried a little, telling her of our long drive, and next thing I know, we are IN! Because we really only needed to use film they let us use the facility and do our work. The staff here is also great, in fact, they keep coming over to see if we need any more help and apologize for being closed! I got two obits, did some directory work, and we left. They have a nice nature trail outside the Museum, so we went for a walk. It was very nice.

Met my cousin Rebecca for dinner, had a grand time, thanks for dinner!!

April 13, 14, 15 and 16, 2004

Research, visit libraries, visit cemeteries, the research is good, I find a lot, fill in a lot, have a few new questions, had a good time.

We ask Al’s cousin, Michelle, who was born and raised in Kansas City, where to eat in KC, she gives us a list of great eateries. We eat at Jack Stack, the best bar-b-que, OH MY!!! We eat at Stroud’s, they have won awards for their pan fried chicken. Very good.

As the week goes by it warms up, by the 16th, it is nearly 80 degrees.

April 17, 2004

Clean trailer, do some small repairs, groom all 4 of the dogs. It is warm, windy, clear, a nice day to just hang out and grill some burgers.

Tomorrow we head out, probably will be back in Michigan before the week is over.

Thursday, April 8, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, April 5 to 8, 2004, Family Research Heaven, Arkansas City, Kansas

April 5, 2004

Oklahoma City to Arkansas City, Kansas

Another rather uneventful driving day. As we only had 140 miles or so to go, we played lazy in the AM, and then spent some time visiting with the couple parked next to us in the Oklahoma City park.

When we arrived in Arc City, I started asking about research facilities and libraries. The owner of the campground was a 6 generation resident of the Arc City area. I asked him one question, “is there a Parker cemetery near here?” and from that moment on, I was on a grand Lashbrook research trip for the next couple of hours and then 3 more wonderful days. I found all kinds of great stuff (ya have to be a family researcher to appreciate this). I found death information and burial places for Lashbrooks that I have been hunting for for over 10 years!! What a HIGH!!

The redbuds are blooming here, as are tulips and crab trees. We have been following spring north since San Antonio.

April 6, 7, and 8th, 2004

April 6, Abby was feeling very punky, so Al stayed with the dogs and I walked over to the Cherokee Strip Museum. This is the place the 1893 land rush to Oklahoma started. The area oozes of history!!!

The research (about 2.5 hours) was GOOD!! Went back to the trailer and Abby was feeling a bit better. Later I went to the public library in town for newspaper work, and a cemetery in town for photos. The caretaker took me around the cemetery and helped me find each stone I was interested in. They are very nice here, not just cause I found a lot of stuff, they really are NICE.

April 7, drove over to Ponca City, Oklahoma for more research. Collected some good stuff. Drove over to Blackwell, Oklahoma to a cemetery, found all the Lashbrooks there buried in the Mausoleum. There was a caretaker there, and he took us into the Mausoleum. This was a first for us, but was very interesting. A little weird, but interesting. One of the other caretakers there told us about a prairie dog colony could be found, it was very near the second cemetery of the day. Found the 2nd cemetery, found the stones we were looking for after about 10 to 15 minutes of searching. Found the prairie dog colony. They certainly are cute!! The last cemetery stop of the day was a bust as far as locating graves, but we met a very interesting man there, who told us about his ancestors participating in the Land Rush and how they camped out at Arc City Kansas for one full year before the land rush. He told us a few very interesting stories.

Above,left, are a couple of prairie dogs poking their heads out of their den. On the right, are 3 more, here you can see the entire field, note the grass is not long. The prairie dog that is standing on the right was chattering, talking to us, maybe telling us to go away??

April 8, drove back to Newkirk looking for city hall and the records for the cemetery that we busted on. Found the city hall at last (no signage on the street to point you in the right direction). They had a great record book for the cemetery. Found some good stuff. Back to the cemetery and found the graves. Back to the trailer for lunch. Off to the county seat at Winfield after that for marriage records, probates, divorces, and one very special death record! After that off to the library in Arc City again, for a review of a couple of obits, and a little internet/email time.

Whew, I was exhausted, but had the time of my life! Everyone in Kay County Oklahoma and Cowley County Kansas that we dealt with were great, nice, informative, kind.

The area is FILLED with oil wells! Some are pumping, others appear to be dormant.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, April 3 & 4, 2004, Okahoma City

April 3, 2004

Al stays at the campground with the dogs, I later discover he has an motive, there is a Camping World within walking distance. He pays a visit there while I am at the Oklahoma Historical Society collecting information on HIS Lashbrook clan.

Ok, the research was good, it was a easy place to research in, books on open shelves, film identified in such a way that it was easy to find your own film, newspapers organized by county and then by city, then by date. EASY!! I did the same amount of research in this one day that I did at the Mississippi Archives in THREE!

As I was discussing a research problem with one of the volunteers there we were interrupted by another researcher. She was reluctant to interrupt, but did anyway. She heard me mention that one of the Lashbrook brides was supposed to be a famous china (as in dishes) painter. She knew about the “Sport” and also knew of a really good resource online for the Oklahoman newspaper. I started snooping around and later thanked her for being a “buttinsky”. Thanks to her I found some fabulous biographical information. Staff was very nice, it was a fun research day.

April 4, 2004

A visit to the Oklahoma Memorial was first on the agenda. It was a sunny bright day, a bit brisk, but fine for walking around. The memorial is very nice, reminds us of Pearl Harbor. Quiet, a place for reflection.

The Oklahoma Memorial Pond. The pond
sits where the street was on that fateful day.

The fence is now a permanent part of the Memorial site.
This is a very small portion of the fencing that surrounded the
site after the explosion. None of the fencing has been
thrown away, but has been saved.

After lunch, we visited the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. What a nice collection. What a nice display of their artifacts. They had Remington statues, one of my favorites, my dad used to own one of the smaller statues, they are so special. Some of the Indian artwork in the collection was spectacular. We spent several hours there, ooohing and ahhing. If you are ever in the area, we highly recommend it.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, April 1 & 2, 2004, Ft. Worth Stockyards, Onward to Oklahoma

We paid a visit to the stockyards of Ft. Worth. We went over there April 1st in the morning, had a little shopping spree, some lunch and enjoyed the dose of history of the area. The stockyards are no longer used, many of the buildings have been turned into shops and restaurants. Several times a day they reenact a cattle drive. About 10 horse back riders “drive” about 20 long horned cattle down the road. Kids love it! We inspected the stockyard and had a pleasant morning.

The Cattle Drive, "Git em up, you little doggies".
Isn't that what they used to say in the movies??

These stockyards have brick floors. The entire area had brick
 on the floors, streets, everything was brick. *

April 2, 2004

Fort Worth Dallas area to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Basically an uneventful drive, missed a turn due to construction and poorly marked signs. Was not even a problem, as there was an alternative route, so we drove equal amount of miles via the second route. Got to our campground to find that the good ole Verizon does not work so hot here. They do not have total digital coverage here, which means simply, NO INTERNET via the cell phone here.

We set up, I prepare a to do list for research at the Oklahoma Historical Society.

*Some of you may recognize the photo, it is the one found on my web page, and for both of my blogs, Reflections From the Fence and Beyond Reflections From the Fence.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, March 27 to April 1, 2004, Texas End of the Line

March 26, 2004

We take a day to just “be” at the campground, paying attention to the dogs and contemplating the next stop on our tour, Fort Worth-Dallas.

March 27, 2004

A day of travel, rather uneventful, except for a little trouble finding fuel. The expressway has service drives on both sides for miles and miles, that form of construction seems to be very popular in Texas. By the time we would see a gas station there was no way to get off and fill up, unless we drove around several miles first south, then north, as the service drives are one way roads. Finally Al got off the expressway, drove around till we found a station and then pulled in, he was going here and there, ended up parked at an angle to the pumps, taking up a great deal of the parking area, but no one seemed to mind, and we got our fuel. It does not sound like a big deal now, but if you had been there, and seen the traffic and the situation, it would be funny. We laughed then, laugh now.

Around Austin Texas the bluebonnets were in full bloom. The blue bonnet is the state flower of Texas (according to something I saw somewhere) and reminds me of a large grape hyacynth. The medians on the expressway were filled with them, a sea of blue. There were also some lovely yellow flowers blooming (have NO idea what they were) and something that at 60 MPH, looked red, possibly a painted Indian flower (sorry if I have that name wrong), which I believe is a flower that resembles a black eyed susan, only the petals are red/orange. The three flowers together, red, blue and a few yellow made for a few oooohs and ahhhhs, on our travels around Austin.

The area north of Austin is filled with ranches, very very very large ranches. We also drive past Waco, which reminds us of a very sad time in American history (we watched the tragedy of Waco from our hotel room in Hawaii while there on our 25th wedding anniversary trip.)

We have a nice campground in Arlington, we had instant phone service, cable tv, the facilities were clean and neat.

March 28, 29, 30, 31, and April 1st, 2004

We spend a wonderful week visiting with Carol’s cousins, the Dardens and the Remleys. Not braggin, but I really have a nice batch of distant cousins. It was so much fun meeting them after sharing family research with them for several years. Thank you all for your great hospitality!

We leave Texas on April 2, two months to the day after arriving here. We had a grand time here, and are sad to leave.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, March 25, 2005, San Antonio Missions

March 25, 2004, Tour of San Antonio continued:

We were then taken to several other “Missions” in the area, there are 5, we saw three Missions today.

Above is the San Jose' Mission, founded ca 1720.

This outside wall was painted. This section of paint remains.
The guide explained the walls were painted bright colors
to attract the local residents, who would become interested in the
painting, come to satisfy their curiosity, and
hopefully would be converted to Christianity.

These stairs are crafted from oak. They were built about the time the Mission was built, and are still used today by the priests to enter the church. They are so old and dry that they almost appear to be petrified, almost look like concrete stairs, not wood.

Above, this painted wall was inside the Mission, and has been carefully cleaned.

The 2004 Adventure, March 24, 2004 & March 25, 2005, San Antonio River Walk, Alamo

March 24, 2004

Travel from Donna Texas to San Antonio, Texas

We happened upon a night of free camping and a free tour of San Antonio for two, if we would stay at a specific campground. We wanted to stop in San Antonio, so we were happy to take advantage of a couple of freebies.

The days drive was rather uneventful, that is a good thing. We set up camp and got organized for the next day’s tour.

March 25, 2004

San Antonio Tour

Had a great bus driver, and we found out the freebie tours would have cost us $104.00 if we had to pay. WOWIE.

First stop, the Riverwalk. This is a must when you are in San Antonio, it is colorful, fun, interesting, charming.

A ride on one of the river boats is a must, and informative. In some places the "river" is only 3 feet deep.

Above:  This piece of art is actually on the outside wall of a building along the Riverwalk.
It is entirely made from stone. (I believe the stone all came from Mexico.)
This is only a section of the work.

After our ride on the Riverwalk boats we view a Imax movie on the Alamo. It is said that the real truth of the story of the Alamo is not known, but that historians feel this version of the story is about the closest to the truth. It was a very well done production which we enjoyed viewing.

Next was lunch, at a rather expensive buffet, but the food was excellent, gourmet!

After lunch we walked over to the Alamo. We were there during the time they were setting up for the premier of the new “Hollywood” Alamo movie, the bus driver swears he talked to Billy Bob Thorton in the hotel. We had visited the Alamo on our first visit to San Antonio about 6 or 7 years ago, however, we really enjoyed our revisit, and took in data that we either have forgotten since the first visit or missed on the first visit.

The Alamo, as a matter of interest, something I am not sure we understood or remembered,
the fighting actually took place in front of this building, in the grassy area.

The rest of our tour on San Antonio can be found on the next blog entry.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, March 20, 2004, 6 Weeks Review

All in all, our 6 weeks and 3 days here in the Rio Grande Valley has been totally delightful. The area has much to offer, we have barely scratched the surface. The people are wonderful, as is the weather. We certainly hope to return here in the future. We did spend a great deal of our time here, just smelling the roses, in other words, we sat, we rested, and then we sat some more. That said we managed to visit San Padre Island and go dolphin watching, visited the Santa Anna Nature Preserve, visted Mexico four times, hit the local flea market a number of times, and learned about growing aleo vera and citrus. We also saw a number of shows, professional and of course, the exciting kids of La Joya. We attended a number of pot luck dinners, and gatherings for Michigan people in the park and sponsored a little get together for Montana owners in the park. Now we will turn the 5er north and work our way back to Michigan.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, March 18, 2004. La Joya Folklorico

One of the really fun and interesting things we did was to go to La Joya to the high school presentation of Mariachi band and Grupo Folklorico (folk dancing). These two groups put on a show that is very professional and extremely impressive. They put on two shows each school year, one in November and one in March. The show is almost 3 hours, with a short intermission, of high energy dancing, singing and performing. Here are a number of photos, which cannot effectively show the spectacle, and the energy of these young dancers and performers. The costumes are very impressive, colorful, and they have to be expensive. It was quite an amazing afternoon.

Above: Folk dancers, Grupo Folklorico Tabasco

Above: Mariachi band, Los Coyotes

Above, this young man could play the accordian like we have never heard before.
The accordian is used in many small musical groups in this area.
You would have to hear it to believe his musical skill!

                        Above:  Yes, it is out of focus, captures the movement, don't
                            you think? Aren't the costumes colorful??

Can you believe how far these young girls are leaning over??

This American dance of clogging was very popular with the crowd,
they performed this dance, as all the rest of their performance, with energy and skill.

These harps are very beautiful and had a beautiful sound as well.

Yes, these are the same kids. And, they were having the time of their lives.

A lot of photos on these great dancers, we hope you enjoyed them,
we wanted to share the color and spectacle with you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, March 16, 2004, Winter Texan Musings

Seems the Rio Grande Valley is a better place to look for winter coats than a Michigan mall in December. I have been trying to find a winter coat for 2 years, shopping till I want to drop, and not finding anything. Last time was at Briarwood Mall, December 2003. So, we happen into a Burlington Coat Factory a week or so ago, and in less than 30 minutes I walk out with a pretty nice new winter coat, pretty dark red, pockets where I want them, and all for under $60.00. Go figure, come all the way to the sub tropics to buy a winter coat. Bizarre, eh???

The Rio Grande Valley is not really a valley, but rather a delta, formed by years of flooding of the Rio Grande River (before it was dammed and controlled).

There are roses in full bloom, some very pretty ones. So are the grapefruit trees, the air smells so sweet, there are so many trees you can smell them just walking through the park. The spring flowering bushes are all a bloom, color is rampant. Bougainvillea is in full bloom, the color vibrant beyond belief.

We have seen 1 snake (very small), several “inch long” spiders, and the fire ants are starting to become a nuisance. There was a infestation in the park of killer bees, that was interesting. We have been told, that any bee found in the valley is probably a killer bee, from all the inbreeding between the old bees and the killers. We occasionally see a jack rabbit in the park, whewie, those babies are big with very long legs!

Winter Texans are a busy people. They don’t seem to ever stop. They are always walking around the park, walking their dogs, or just walking for exercise. The exercise room in the park is heavily used, as is the billards room, the card playing rooms, the pool and hot tubs. The pool exercise class meets TWO times a day, once at 7 AM. The programs here are well attended, the Winter Texan likes to be entertained! There are a number of clubs, wood carving, stained glass making, doll making, bike club, birding club, just to name a few, and all are well attended. They have Border Life, a group dedicated to educating Winter Texans about the Rio Grande Valley, and all of their programs and trips are well attended and are very interesting and are FREE! Winter Texans go on trips, day trips, shopping trips, tours, and more. They go to Mexico, some go to buy medicines, or see the dentist. They can frequently save enough money at the dentist (or on their medicines) in Mexico to pay for their trip to the Rio Grande Valley each year, and some of them stay for months! Winter Texans LOVE to eat, any excuse for a pot luck dinner is enthusiastically received and attended! Winter Texans are some of the nicest people we have ever met, narry a cranky one, ANYWHERE! Winter Texans are from Ontario, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Ohio, just to name a few places. Some Winter Texans are even from northern Texas! Rarely do you see such an active bunch of people! They laugh at themselves, at their infirmities, baldness, soreness, aches and pains, all become a venue for JOKES! Winter Texans are pretty neat people!

Monday, March 15, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, March 15, 2004, Cactus Salad

It is Prickly Pear season here in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. They are blooming and putting out new little paddles (leaves). Did you know you could eat the paddles?? The are called nopalitos, they are boiled and eaten in salads or as a cooked vegetable. You can buy them at the local grocery stores. Here is a recipe for you to try, they tell me it can be found in one of the Betty Crocker recipe books:

Cactus Salad (Ensalada De Nopalitos)
4 servings

24 ounces sliced or diced prickly pear cactus
2 med tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 sm onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon drived oregano leaves
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
a dash of pepper

Place cactus, tomatoes, onion and cilantro in a glass or plastic bowl. Shake remaining ingredients in tightly covered jar. Pour over vegetables; toss. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve on lettuce leaves if desired.

Personally I am confused by the recipe, not sure if you need to boil this before you chop, or just skin the little rascals. Was told to use as vegetable you must boil first for 15 minutes, drain and then boil again for 15 minutes (using fresh water each time).

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, March 14, 2004, Citrus Farm

We went with Border Life, a group dedicated to educating Winter Texans' about the Rio Grande Valley to a citrus farm. The grapefruit were blooming, the air was sweet with the smell. We learned a lot and had a fun afternoon.

Above:  A grapefruit tree with the last of this years harvest.
These are Rio Red grapefruit. They are marketed as Rio Stars,
indicating they were grown in Texas, not in any other state.

Above, looking down the rows of grapefruit trees. At this farm
they cut off the tops of the trees with a hedge cutter. They also
never till inbetwen the rows and they use chemical weed control.
At the end of the season, they will clean all the debris
from under the trees and in the rows.

Above is an aspargus fern. This one started out as a house
 plant, was moved into the yard of the owner of the citrus farm.
It is hard to tell the size, but it is about 4 to 5 feet TALL!
Note the wooden fence in the background, it is about 6 foot tall.

Above: I call this a houseplant gone mad! This plant was planted
as ground cover, the leaves are about 4 inches long. Once
it starts up the tree, the leaves get substantially larger, some were
about 12 inches or more long, and they get pretty splits in them.
I grow this plant at home in Michigan as a houseplant, leaves about 3 inches long.

It has been very interesting seeing plants growing in the ground here in the Rio Grande Valley, that are grown as houseplants in the north. They grow ficus trees here in the RV park as ornamental trees (in the ground!). The ficus trees are 20 foot tall or taller. Takes my breath away every time I see them!

Above, beautiful hot pink bougainvillea between two century plants. This is in a garden area at the citrus farm. I think that might be a rubber plant in the right rear. Bougainvillea comes in lovely shades of hot pink and purple. They are stunning in a land that many times is dusty and windy.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, February 29 to March 11, 2004, Neuvo Progreso Mexico

We have been to Mexico several times. The border town of Progresso, is very close to where we are staying. It is fun to go shop there, and we have had several great lunches over there, yum, great Mexican meals.

We walk from the USA over to Mexico. This is a brand new bridge, finished in 2003 from Progresso Texas to Neuvo Progreso Mexico. We walk under the covered portion, this is going into Mexico. It cost 25 cents to go over and 25 cents to come back.

Above: The Rio Grande River at Progresso, looking west.

Above: Main street, Neuvo Progreso Mexico

Above:  inside a pharmacy in Neuvo Progreso Mexico. You can buy many prescription drugs here without a prescription. You can buy antibiotics off the counter, and they are very cheap. You can buy generic allergy medications for much less, one brand we checked, you can get for about 10 cents a pill instead of $1.00 a pill (what I have paid in Michigan). Needless to say, many Americans with minimal or no benefits come here and buy their medicines. There are also cheap dentists working here. Many Americans who have no dental coverage come here for their dental work.

Above:  shows several pharmacies and at least one dentist in less than one block. Someone told us there are 400 dentists and 400 pharmacies in Neuvo Progreso, I am not sure about that, but there are a LOT of each!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, February 29 to March 11, 2004, Aloe Vera Farm

We took a tour to a Aloe Vera farm. The parents of the current owner do the tours, she talks about Aloe Vera products, and he takes you out to the field. They are both past 80 years old, and to say they are "characters", is truly an understatement.

Acres of aloe vera plants. These are all in bloom. They plant them about 40 inches apart on center (both directions). If there is not enough rain, they water the fields by flooding them with water from the Rio Grande River. Many farmers do that here in the Rio Grande Valley.

Flower can be eaten, AFTER it has opened, not before. Hummingbirds can drink the nectar, but cannot get their little beaks into the flower.

Above are boxes of aloe stems, cut and ready for processing.

NOW, let see what this stuff really is all about, the INSIDE stuff:

Above, fillet of aloe, cutting away all the green outer layer of the plant to get to the middle. Below, they cut a small piece for all of us to feel and rub on our hands. It reminded me of jello, in a way, a slimy gelatin. They say it is loaded with protein, and all kinds of other things that are good for us. They drink it, make it into creams for healing and soothing, and they even make jelly out of it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, February 29 to March 11, 2004, Santa Anna Refuge

We went to Santa Anna National Refuge. It borders on the Rio Grande River on the south. It is a interesting place, we went on a trolley tour around the park.

There is not a lot of Spanish Moss in this area, except in the Santa Anna park, this was a great speciman.

This cemetery is in the Santa Anna park, there are about 40 graves.
Only about 3 or 4 names are known of these 40.

Cemetery Gate