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

Monday, March 8, 2004

The 2004 Adventure, February 29 to March 11, 2004, Beauty and the Bad Dudes

We have spent the last several weeks doing a little sightseeing and shopping, and enjoying the weather. We went to Mexico several times, once on a tour, other times to Progresso, for shopping and lunch. We visited several parks nearby.

The flowers and flowering bushes are starting to bloom. It is so warm here that there have been petunias and geraniums in full bloom for weeks. They look like mine do in Michigan about July!

Al and I hosted a small get together for other Montana owners here in the park. We shared finger foods and information about the Montana Owners Club online forum. It was a very nice evening.

There was a bit of excitement here in the park. Seems we had a crook amid our ranks. The police came in here and took possession of a $450,000 motor home. The story is (allowing for exageration of those who told us), that he wrote a $70,000 check for the deposit of this motor home and of course, the check bounced. It is possible that he also had a new truck that he towed behind this motor home, also not paid for. We heard that the wife of this stellar person had a accident on a cycle here, and somehow that got the attention of the authorities. We also heard that they had been in the park for about a month. My response was, "I hope I did not have dinner with this creep!" Anyway, when the local police got into the motor home they found a lot of false identities, checkbooks, and reportedly a roll of checks from State Farm Insurance. We were told there were at least 8 full identities. Not sure how much of this story is really true, but part of it was, cause they reported the removal of the motor home on the local news stations.

Not sure what this bush is, but it surely is pretty. There are a number of these in the park.