Saturday, January 30, 2010

Visit to Mexico

Thursday to Saturday Jan 28 to 30/10

So I did venture across the Rio Grande River into Mexico at the town of Progresso which is about 15 miles from Alamo with two Manitobans - Bob and Judy. You can see in this first picture, the big fence that is being put up in the distance. The second picture is taken from the bridge that we walked across into Mexico. We parked the car on the US side for $2 and paid 25 cents each to walk across. We were not checked as we walked into town with all the other winter Texans but Mexican soldiers stand guard. There was a shooting on the main street in December but that was at a drug smuggler trying to drive across the border. That put a dent into tourism for a while but people forget easily. The main attactions are the dentists and the drug stores for cheap prescription drugs. The main street is long and filled with shops of Mexican trinkets. I did buy some Vanilla - everybody does. Bob had his haircut for $3. I saw a sign for teeth cleaning for $5 and dental examinations are free. We had lunch at a pub where many winter Texans from our RV park go each week for cheap drinks,, music and dancing.

We had to pay another 25 cents to get back over the bridge and show our passports to get back into the USA. The border customs officer checked out my passport and asked me a few regular questions and then was handing me my passport back and asked me "How tall are you?" and I answered 5'9" and then asked him why he asked me that? He said he didn't often see such a tall women - understandable since he sees short Mexican women and old Winter Texan women who are mostly 5'4" and under.
Since Mexico on Thursday, the temperatures have dipped a bit but we managed to play 18 holes of golf today and a few games of shuffleboard. I spent a little time in the stained glass workshop and cut some glass to make a windmill stepping stone when I get home.
On Sunday we will be preparing for our departure on Monday morning to make our way to Arizona. Cousin Maureen (and 2 Manitoba girlfriends from here in this park) will be flying to Las Vegas tomorrow night for a 4 day mini holiday. Don and I will be dining Sunday night with our friends Laurel (DD volunteer firefighter)and Joan Hamilton from Lakefield who have a RV in the neighbouring park here.
Back to the blog as we travel to Arizona.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Checking out the birds again

Sunday to Wednesday January 24 to 27/2010

We didn't accomplish too much this week but we ventured out of the resort today to visit Estero Llano Grande State Park in nearby Westlaco with our new friends John and Bonnie - Rvers from Kincardine Ontario. We Ontario people have to stick together because there aren't too many of us down here in southern Texas. The Winter Texans in this RV resort mostly come from the mid west states and mid western provinces. So back to the park we were at today. We arrived there at 8:30 so we could go out with a naturalist to learn about the birds that are there. About 80 different species of birds were spotted in that time. This park is 176 acres on the site of an old rv resort and is special for its large wetland environment so there are lots of waterfowl to see and an alligator too.

This photo is of a Pauraque - special to the Rio Grande Valley. You would walk right past it and not notice it because it looks like a piece of wood on the forest floor. It is a night hunter and sleeps on the ground all day hardly moving an inch.

These birds are Chachalacas - special to this area too. They are the size of a pheasant and they make alot of noise. We actually saw this flock at a bird feeding station at the Valley Nature Center in Westlaco that we visited in the afternoon after we feed ourselves at McDs - $1.49 Big Mac Wednesday.

Other birds of not we saw today were - Vermillion Flycatcher (small bright red bird - size of a swallow - black wings), whistling duck (burned marshmellow color), Anhinga (large water bird), cinnamon teal, white winged dove, buff-bellied hummingbird, golden fronted woodpecker, scissor-tailed flycatcher, eastern phoebe and savannah sparrow.

That is all the birding places in the area that I wanted to get too. Tomorrow I am going over the border into Mexico with some friends of Cousin Don and Maureen. Don doesn't want to go.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Exploring the Rio Grande Valley

Tuesday to Saturday, January 23, 2010

Such a nice week I didn't get over to the Clubhouse to post a blog all week. Cousin Don and Maureen drove us over to check out South Padre Island on the Gulf of Mexico (an hour drive from here in Alamo) on Wednesday. The weather was sunny and warm but windy so our walk on the beach was like getting slightly sandblasted. We lunched on a platter of shrimp, fish, chicken and fries at Dirty Al's. We toured the World Birding Center on the Island enjoying their boardwalk and new viewing tower. Para-surfers, windsurfers and sand sail buggies were enjoying the windy conditions which the island experiences most of the time. We were advised not to bring the RV to camp here because the salt water and the sand cause alot of damage to your rig.

Yesterday Don and I visited another park for birding - Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. We did see some lovely birds and javelinas (look like wild pigs but they aren't in the pig family at all). This park is right on the Rio Grande River so border patrols are present - even a chopper flying overhead. Most of the birds go south through this area in October and November and come back north in April - birds are pretty smart. The naturalist told us that some days thousands of hawks are counted from their hawk tower. With so much land cleared for development and farming, the bird's habitats are severely threatened. Plus the damming of the Rio Grande River (further upstream) for irrigation and to control flooding has changed the vegetation in the area. One year recently no water of the Rio Grande River reached the Gulf of Mexico.

So we keep busy when we aren't touring with golfing, the pool, walking, shopping and whatever else comes along.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Winter Texans

Friday to Monday - Jan 15-18/10
We are slowly becoming Winter Texans. We heard the definition of a Winter Texan today - Women who can't be pregnant anymore and men who look like they are. Sad isn't it.
So we didn't get the expected rainstorms on the weekend and each day the weather is getting warmer now. We have been golfing and going to the pool. Today we visited the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge which is about 8 miles south of here on the Rio Grande River - this river used to be alot grander than it is now. This refuge is over 2000 acres of subtropical thorn forest and is home for numerous birds that are south Texas specialities. They have a Green Jay down here which shows a lovely torquiose color when it flies. We also saw a bird called a Kiskadee - beautiful yellow breasted bird. Sorry - no pictures because we forgot to take our camera.
We attended the park dance on Saturday night and learned that cousin Don loves to dance. Tonight we are in the computer room in the clubhouse after Bingo and Don won 2 Bingo games - profit of $14 and I won a game that I had to share the profits so I am only ahead$1.50 since we had to pay $2 for our 6 cards. Even cousin Maureen won a Bingo game tonight too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Rain coming for Texas

Wednesday and Thursday - Jan 13 and 14/10
Happy to be doing this blog so I can keep track of the calendar and know what day it is. We have had a couple of mild cloudy days. We are very thankful to see some sunshine momentarily. We visited a local flea market yesterday with Cousin Don and Maureen. We again didn't spend a fortune there but did pick up some fresh produce. We played Mexican Train Dominoes at night and Mary lost again. Rules keep changing on that game so we have to find an expert in it to settle some disputes. Today Don and I went to the Rio Grande Valley RV show to look around at some new trailers but it wasn't overly exciting. We had to wait around in the morning for a repairman to come and fix our furnace. A circuit board had to be replaced ($150 for the part plus the $60 hourly fee for the repairman) so it was a costly morning but what can you do?
I taught the exercise class for the park ladies again this morning and they seem to like it and say I can do it every day but I think I will stick to Monday and Thursday mornings.
Cousin Don is suffering from a bad cold right now so we may have to quarantine their trailer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New activity - Golf

Monday and Tuesday - Jan 11 and 12/10
Been busy doing the activities in the park. Lead the 8 AM exercise class on Monday morning and the ladies complained I was too hard on them but they are allowing me to come back on Thursday. Had some walks around the park and played golf on their 9 hole/3 par golf course on site - no fee so it is a great place to learn and our friends here didn't laugh at my shots since I have never golfed before. I even shot par on one hole so I wasn't totally useless.
Still waiting for better weather to make it here. It is not cold now but rainy and mild.
The sister park to this one had a craft show this morning with vendors from the area coming in selling jewellery and shirts and all kinds of things but Don and I did not buy anything. We are waiting for the yard sale this weekend in the park.
Looking forward to getting out to some of the local wildlife parks and South Padre Island but the weather has to improve more. I had signed up for a tour going to the King Ranch but the date I was to go isn't available any more. Lots of birding in this area because birds migrate to this area for the winter. That is all the excitement I can think of to tell you for now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday - Church and Football

Sunday, January 10/10 Sunny and getting warmer - didn't have to wear a coat today.
Mary attended the non-denominational church service in the clubhouse this morning. The service had a 20 person choir and an organist and a piano player too. Almost 500 attended and we had 36 people mentioned on the prayer list for sickness. Nicely done - the service lasted over an hour.
Enjoyed the warming temperatures and the sunshine today - even took a bike ride on Don's cousin's bike -it worked but you can't expect luxury from a $7 bike. Took some pictures finally so they have been added for you. The second picture is the big clubhouse for the resort. More pictures can be accessed at the website.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Factory Shopping Outlet today

Saturday, January 9, 2010 Icicles around this morning but warm sunshine too.
NO snow but still cold in this supposedly tropical area - another day or so and then it will improve?? Today we got the lay of the land in the park and around the area a bit. We spent several hours checking out the bargains at the local factory outlet mall. Don purchased some t-shirts and swimshorts - bargain basement prices- they almost gave him money to carry them away. I purchased some black leather slide-in shoes - look very Texan. We are saving some funds for the park yard sale next week. Don Thompson bought himself a bicycle at the yard sale last year for $7. Tonight Don and Maureen will be over for an exciting game of Mexican Train Dominoes. Will get some pictures taken tomorrow.

Friday, January 8, 2010

First Friday in the south

Friday, January 8/10 Still too cold
Just about got to freezing temperatures last night and freezing temperatures still threaten for the next 2 nights. The natives around here aren't at all happy about this. Most of the snowbirds in this park are from the midwest so they aren't too unhappy to be away from their minus-minus temps back home.
Started the day at 8 AM fitness class - done to a 35 minute audio tape by some old Texan lady - just verbal instruction - no music. It was amusing. The ladies here do 8 AM exercise class from Monday to Friday. I hear they do a Debbie Reynolds audio tape on Tuesdays and Thursdays and there is some music on that one. I have offered to do this Monday's class and they seemed receptive to that because they have used these tapes for at least 9 winters.
After fitness class, I checked out the stained glass art class but noone else showed up for it. They do have a room set up as a stained glass workshop and lots of projects are on the go - but noone came out to work on them. So I went back to the big clubhouse and spent 30 minutes learning some new line dances. The class actually lasts an hour but my brain could only handle 30 minutes for now.
Checked out the local WalMart Supercentre today and bought a few groceries and things and now I am filing the blog for the day. Don is working on getting the coordinates to set up his satellite dish to get some Canadian channels. There are many Mexican channels to pick from but our Spanish is still too pathetic to follow it well.
Tonight we are invited to Don and Maureen's for dinner and then a movie in the Clubhouse at 7 PM - "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock.
Yard Sale coming on the 16th and some craft sales too. It is a summer camp for seniors - life is good.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Touch Down in Alamo Texas

Thursday, January 7/10 47 degrees at 9:30 AM
Packed up and took off in very windy conditions - misty rain - to head south - tail wind most of the time. Headed for the Rio Grande Valley. Passed by the King Ranch - largest ranch in Southern Texas (around 825,000 acres) - namesake of our big truck we are in. After travelling south for about 3 hours we turned to go east by Harlingen and checked out a RV park that said they could accommodate us. Unfortunately our designated spot was beside a camper with 2 beagles and a bunch of dumpsters on the other side. Don turned this down and we left for another park down the road where Don's first cousin (Don Thompson and his wife Maureen) from Winnipeg have a trailer. We opted for this location - although more expensive but our little lot is more pleasant than the last one. We settled in - finally hooked up to water and sewers and are using the trailer to its fullest. The temperature made it to the 60s and has now turned cold and the Canadians have to take the blame. We did make a little grocery and gas run in the neighbourhood and are checking out the activities of the park - of which there are many. Maybe tomorrow you will get a photo - if the sun comes out?? Hoping for warm weather soon - still wearing turtlenecks and long pants.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 3 and 4 on the road

Tuesday, January 5/10 22 degrees at 7 AM
Back on the road, travelling out of the Florida Panhandle through the bottom of Alabama, still on I-10. Passed the port city of Mobile and onto the state of Mississippi for a brief drive through. Still on I-10 into Louisiana. It was another bright sunny day but the daytime high only made it to mid 40's.
After stopping at the Welcome to Louisiana Information Centre on I-10 we picked the Coushatta Casino RV Resort just north of Kinder as our night stop. We set up the trailer and caught the shuttle bus over to the big casino and had dinner there, joined their Advantage member's club but didn't gamble away any $. Interesting to see in this area were all the rice fields and the crawfish fishing.

Wednesday, January 6/10 37 degrees at 9 AM
Slower start today - left campground around 9 AM after filling up the diesel tank - price per gallon has been around $2.70 to $2.80 per gallon and each fill-up costs about $85 to $100 and the truck averages about 9.5 miles per gallon on the interstates. We have been doing about 450 miles each day since we left. Travelled out of Louisiana and into Texas on the I-10 still. We made our way through Houston - 2 million population - 4th largest city in US. and stayed on the interstate to San Antonio. The sunshine clouded over but the temperature stayed mild today and reached a high of 66 degrees.
We got off I-10 at San Antonio and went south on I-37 heading for Corpus Christi. We parked for the night at Mathis in a new RV Park beside an RV store.
May get out the new camera tomorrow and get some shots taken for this blog.

Monday, January 4, 2010

First 2 days on the road

Sunday, January 3/10 21 degrees at 7 AM

On the road at 7 AM. Left Chesapeake, Virginia to head south looking for those warmer temperatures. Highest for today was 42 degrees and it was a bright sunny day and the roads were dry and the land is flat. We drove east to join up to 1-95 and headed south - out of Virginia and through North Carolina. We parked for the night at The Oaks, Yemassee, South Carolina. Joined Passport America (RV travel club) and paid $19 plus tax which is 1/2 price of their regular fee. Luckily we had 50 amp service to power up the heating system to keep warm for the night.

Monday, January 4/10 23 degrees
Packed up by 7 AM and stopped at the local McDs for breakfast. Continued down I-95 through Georgia and into Florida. Again a bright sunny day and the roads are dry. We switched over to I-10 in Jacksonville Florida and drove west, past Tallahassee (land is no longer flat - gently rolling now) and stopped for the night at Juniper Lake RV Park ($19 plus tax - Passport America). Still too cold to enjoy the outdoors. Highest temperature seen today on the truck readout was 47 degrees but freezing expected again through the night. Connected to WiFi tonight to catch up on email.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Initial Post

January 2/10 Saturday
Packed up and ready to go. Cold temperatures in Chesapeake - a dusting of snow on the ground this morning and a cold wind blowing. Heading out early tomorrow morning in a southerly direction to find warmer weather.