Getting close to the end of this winter lifestyle in Texas. We have said goodbye to many of our neighbours this week as they head back up north. We have set our takeoff date for April 10 and will slowly make it over to see Tom and Diana in Virginia Beach by the 14 and proceed to Ontario on the 17th. So what have we done lately other than golf, swim, bike, eat and play games? On Saturday, March 26th, another neighbour Barb and I went to the Texas Women's Expo at the McAllen Convention Centre. It was the first time an event like this was held in the Rio Grande Valley and it seemed to be well attended by the ladies of the valley. It was the first event I had been to that I saw more local Hispanic people than Winter Texans. We enjoyed visiting the exhibitor booths and listening to speakers on Yoga, Feng Shui decorating, heart health and even a little fashion show. There was a salon doing haircuts, manicures, eyebrow waxing etc but the line-ups for that were long. On March 30 we enjoyed a boat cruise out of South Padre Island that toured the port of Brownsville. (We had won this trip for 2, as a prize from a Casino Night we had in the park. Don and I accumulated enough points by playing Blackjack that we made the winning bid on this trip at the end of the night point auction.) The Brownsville Ship Channel has been open since 1936 and is located at the southern most tip of Texas. It is a 17 mile channel. It was a windy day but we were sheltered for the Gulf of Mexico waves by travelling on this channel of the "Laguna Madre" which is the inner-coastal waterway. Cruising in the port of Brownsville we saw ships in drydock - for repairs. Also many shrimp boats were in the port. Apparently the shrimp season was just shutting down and will reopen in July. They informed us that the shrimp nets now have turtle guards so if the turtle get in the net there is a spot where they can escape. We also saw oil drilling platforms waiting to go out in the Gulf of Mexico. They come complete with helicopter pads but you have to be important to travel out the rig that way - regular personnel and supplies are transported by boat.It is built like a giant jack (all four corners can be ratcheted down so that it sits on the bottom. The biggest industry in the port seemed to be the selvaging of old ships. The big tankers, cargo ships, old navy ships, etc are cut up with giant blow torches after all the wiring and tubing, etc are removed. The metal is cut up in finer parts and loaded on a cargo ship to be taken to China to be reprocessed into metal spools for export to factories whereever. Glad to see the old ships aren't just put out of service and abandoned or sunk in the oceans? The cruise lasted about 3 hours and was followed by a late taco lunch, which was included in the trip and served in a restaurant on the pier. The next morning we did a Border Patrol Tour that the park arranged with their bus. We travelled to the Westlaco division of the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley. We had an interesting talk for one of the agents - she showed us her M-16 fully automatic rifle ( and let some guys of the group hold it - not loaded), her bulletproof vest, bullets from her pistol (223 cal 60 grain steel jacketed), night vision goggles and an infrared camera, and her snake protective shin guards. They catch up to 300 illegals sneaking across the border in the Rio Grande Valley a day - a million a year are caught across the the length of the southern border from Brownsville Tx. to San Diago Ca. They showed us the holding area where the illegals are processed and there were about 30 in the cells from the night before, half female and half from points further south than Mx., after which they see a judge and then receive a sentence depending on the number of times they have been caught. After they serve their time they are deported, the mexicans dropped off by truck but the others have to be flown to thir country of origin. There is also alot of illegal drugs that get seized - 700,000 pounds of marijuana last year. The age range to apply to be a border patrol agent is from 19 to 39 years of age. The women who spoke to our group was out of the navy after 11 years there but wanted to be closer to home to her 3 kids so she applied for this job - better pay too.
Wednesday June 19, 2019 – Stopped at Questrade and to see Grampa in Toronto on route to Larry and Annette’s for tea and dropping off van before our Icelandair (Frequent Flyer # F14004039760 and F14004039745) flight 602 to Reykjavik, Iceland at 9 PM. We had time to have a relaxed dinner in the Premium Lounge at the Toronto Airport. That was fortunate since all we got on the flights that night was a bottle of water. Thursday, June 20, 2019 - We flew 5½ hours to Iceland to change planes (one hour layover) to complete our trip to Stockholm, Sweden in 3 more hours from 7:35 AM (Iceland time) to 12:40 PM (Sweden time). On arrival we located the 20 minute high speed train terminal under the airport and boarded the downtown Stockholm train (Arlanda Express Train - $49 CAN - prearranged) for a 20 minute ride to Central Station. We walked about a kilometer with our luggage to the Stockholm Sheraton Hotel for our 2 night stay. We were fortunate there to have a concierge lounge pass wh