Sunset in PV

Sunset in PV

Friday, December 31, 2010

December 26 - 31, 2010 "Happy New Year"

Click for Weslaco, Texas Forecast

Wow! 2010 has been a memorable year, and tomorrow I/we plan on sitting down and reflecting, but for now, I shall post a brief blog on our activities for the week, as it is New Years Eve, and CC and I have BIG plans ;-) (Wink, Wink) LOL

We have been sedentary too long, so a day trip was in order.  Today’s destination is Roma, TX.  Roma was founded in 1765 and incorporated in 1836.  It serves as a port of entry from Mexico into the U.S. via the Roma-Ciudad Miguel Aleman International Bridge.  Prior to Texas independence from Mexico in 1836, the town was listed as under the jurisdiction of the town of Mier, Mexico and served under Spanish rule.  Many old original buildings still exist, albeit in a state of disrepair. (Click on images to enlarge)

We stopped and talked with a fellow Border Patrol Agent, as we gazed across the river, and he commented that most of the “fishermen” on the banks were really "scouts for the Cartel", and as soon as he would leave his post, they would throw the rafts in the water and try to make it across the Rio Grande in broad daylight, no less.

From Roma, it was southeast bound for Los Ebanos, the only hand drawn ferry crossing on any of the US borders. When you drive down the curving old highway that leads to Los Ebanos, it is like driving into a land that time forgot. On either side of this rural road, native greenery such as a wide variety of cacti and mesquite trees thrive. The chains of rolling, pebbly hills which come to an abrupt end at the rusty, railroad tracks have yielded numerous legends of lost buried treasure and several ghost sightings, unique to the area.

And today, New Years Eve, we once again ventured to Nuevo Progreso, in search of the elusive $15 Gucci purse for CC. Some would argue that they are forgeries, and I would have to agree. But why one would spend $600 - $2,000 for a purse is foreign thinking to me. After all, a purse is a purse is a purse, and is merely a carrier of “stuff”; pictures to follow as soon as we can reclaim it from customs.
From CC and I, we wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Until next time, take care and stay well……….

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 18 - 25, 2010 "Merry Christmas"

Click for Weslaco, Texas Forecast

CC continues her chair and Zoomba classes, while Fester, always inquisitive researched the difference between tacos, burritos and fajitas; and there is a difference, albeit minute. Tacos are small, 6” tortillas, usually filled with one or more ingredients (cooked, as in bacon and eggs, but not grilled), and folded over. Fajitas are the same, but the ingredients are grilled meat or seafood and grilled vegetables. Burritos are larger, 12” tortillas, filled with 2 or more ingredients, and rolled with the ends sealed. Thus ends the first cooking class in Mexican 101. Next time we will cover salsa, picante and pico de gallo.

Naturally, everyday ends with the pool and hot tub. My back is starting to relax after punishing it unmercifully from April through September, with two house liquidations.

On the 21st, I awoke at 2 am to view the lunar eclipse and it was cloudy, so a wasted trip it was. Later that day CC cleaned the rig and did Zoomba. The pool and hot tub were very crowded today; maybe the word was out, “Swimsuits Optional”.

CC helped with buffet dinner preparations on Wednesday, by peeling apples and wrapping 120+ potatoes in foil. Later, at Don Wes, we purchased a gallon thermos ($2) for pool “strawberry” margaritas tomorrow. Hard to believe it’s Christmas week, as the temps the last 2 days have been in the 80-85 degree range during the day and 62-65 at night. I’m dreaming of a White Christmas for all of you, not us.

CC made her second Ropa visit with Terri and friends of hers from the UK, while I went to the store to purchase ingredients for “Pre Christmas Eve Margaritas” at the pool this afternoon. Margaritas were a hit; made a gallon and they went quickly.

Friday morning CC was up at 5am? Don’t ask, don’t tell? So at 6 am we ventured to HEB for Christmas Dinner “stuff”; asparagus and dinner rolls, which were our “contribution” to the Christmas Dinner Buffet, tomorrow at 2 pm. Then it was on to Progreso, MX, to do some more research on Pancho’s Pharmacy, to ascertain whether their margaritas are as good as they were last week or maybe it was just a onetime fluke. We left about 9:30 am, just in case the bridge was again closed. There was a bomb threat yesterday, and the bridge was closed for a few hours. Pictured below is the group, “judging” the margaritas at Pancho’s. It was no fluke, these are the real deal; no kool-aid here.

There are actually two Pancho’s  in Progreso. The first one is about a block from the bridge on the west side of the street, and is NOT the good one. Venture on down about 2 more blocks on the west side, until you see the Galerias (on the other side of the street). There is no hanging signage that says Pancho’s Bar, but it is in the El Disco "Pancho's" store, and the bar is on your right as you walk in the door.

After one $2 margarita, we all decided it was time for lunch. We each ordered another margarita at Pancho’s and carried our “to go” cups to the Red Snapper, where the food is fantastic, but their margaritas can’t compete with Pancho’s. Does this look like a happy crew, or what?

We all returned from MX around 2 pm, and naturally headed to the pool, and guess what? The “Swimsuits Optional” sign had been removed from the pool gate. Some people have no sense of humor AT ALL, and are simply “Old Fuddy Duddies”.

CC and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and hope your day was as good as ours. Even without family, we have made friends here at the park, and spent some time at the buffet dinner with them. The food was outstanding, and what I really treasured, was sampling the many different foods that our group of 9 couples had prepared. It was NOT your traditional Christmas dinner; much better.

Until next time, take care and stay well……………….

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 12 - 17, 2010 - "Swimsuits Optional"

Click for Donna, Texas Forecast

No week is complete without at least one trip to Don Wes Flea Market. Funny name for a flea market you say? Well, seems as these Texans are smarter than you think. The flea market is located on Business 83, halfway between Donna, TX and Weslaco, TX; hence Don Wes. Here, one can shop for anything from soup to nuts; new or pre-owned (except for food items, naturally; who would want to purchase a pre-owned food item?). Free puppies were in abundance on this visit.

I’m such a pushover. CC has been wanting a puppy since we lost Decker, our 17 year old Black Lab, so……..It’s a miniature BurNard; a cross between a miniature Burmese Mountain Dog and a miniature St. Bernard. The lady we got her from said she would only get up to the 10 – 12 pound range. At least that is what I think she said, as my French is not the best. We haven’t named her yet, so any suggestions would be welcomed.

All of the walking and haggling sure works up an appetite. One of the vendors had “Mexican Hot Dogs”, which according to her are simply a hot dog rolled in a flour tortilla and then deep fried. CC and I both passed on that one. Around the corner was Nana’s, and as we approached, the gentleman asked if we had ever had lonches (Progresso style), to which we replied, “No”. Quickly he turned and said, “Free sample”, and disappeared.  He had me at “Free”. Actually they were quite tasty; kind of a cross between a hot dog, hamburger, and a taco; prepared with specially seasoned ground beef in a special “bun of sorts” topped with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, and sliced avocado. We ordered 4 each for $4. We will be back as they were a welcomed relief from the typical Tex-Mex tacos that are so prevalent in the area.

There are certain “items” necessary to fulltime in the RGV as Winter Texans, and one of those is a name sign. CC and I had discussed this over the last few weeks, and finally decided to bite the bullet and splurge for $26. Took him all of about 10 minutes, and we were on our way. But wait, what are we going to hang it on? So, another $18 for a welded steel frame capable of withstanding the breezy RGV, and supporting the cedar sign. We’re done. Not quite. CC has her eye on another item, a US Flag with stand, $15. That original $26 sign ended up costing $59. Talk about inflation.

Someone (?) attached the sign, “Swimsuits Optional”, to the gated entrance to the pool and hot tub. We have firsthand knowledge of who the culprit is, but we are sworn to secrecy. Upon seeing the sign for the first time, CC and I speculated it would only be up for a day or two, until management removed it. But, it has been up for about 4 days now, so one can only surmise that here at Country Sunshine, swimsuits are indeed, optional. Y’all come back now!

We are constantly searching for the “ultimate” margarita in Nuevo Progresso, MX, and by golly we may have just found it this week at Pancho’s for only $2. But, before we say more, another trip is in order to guarantee that this was not a fluke. It’s a tough assignment, but someone has to do it!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

Until next time, take care, and stay well.......

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 1 - 11, 2010 - "Free Beer"

Click for Weslaco, Texas Forecast

A group of 10 from the park toured the Aloe King Farm in Mercedes, TX. Upon arrival, we were led into their palapa and fed a roasted chicken lunch with all the trimmings, at the modest cost of $7 per person. The cost of the “tour” was $2 per person and lasted about 2 hours. We were each given a starter plant to take home and plant. I was skeptical (imagine that) about going, but it turned out to be very interesting.

Pictured below is a filet of Aloe Vera, and we were each given a slice of it to use as a moisturizer. There are many medicinal uses for the plant as well. Visit the website for more information.

Just across the road from Aloe King is an avocado orchard. Today workers were trimming the trees to make them stronger and to increase the yield. The actual “trimmer” has 5 spinning blades; each blade about 24” in diameter, and looked like circular saw blades. To say debris was flying would be an understatement, which is why the operator is enclosed in the protected cab. Notice the tree on the left which has not yet been trimmed. (Click on any picture to enlarge)

Another day, another trip SOTB to Progreso; It has become a weekly ritual.  Minimum cost for the trip includes $2 for parking on the US side, and $0.25 each per crossing to walk across the bridge; a total of $3.

That is, of course, before a stop at the Red Panty Bar for one of their great margaritas; $4 each but they are huge. Unfortunately for us, we were a day early for free beer. Oh well, guess we’ll just have to go back tomorrow to take advantage of that. Rule #3 in retirement is never, ever turn down a free beer.

CC needed some Clinique “something”(?), and the JC Penney here in Weslaco didn’t carry it, so it was off to Dillard’s in Harlingen, about 15 miles to the East. It truly amazes me that there are so few Bar-B-Que joints in the RGV (Rio Grande Valley). I mean, we are in Texas, aren’t we?  Now if you want Mexican food, the RGV is the place to be; more Mexican restaurants here than there are Mormon Churches in Salt Lake City. While in Harlingen we stopped at The Lone Star for lunch.

I had the brisket sandwich; it doesn’t get more Texas than that. The food was very good, and the price reasonable. $5.95 for the “special”, sandwich, fries and drink. CC had a burger. What’s up with that?

We are in Weslaco, located in the RGV midway between Harlingen and McAllen. One of the lady’s here at the park, suggested to CC, that a “must see/do” was the market in McAllen. It reminded me of the shopping district in Puerto Vallarta.  Pictured below CC models some Hoochie Mama jeans.

All the walking and shopping has really worked up our appetites, so it was off to find a place to eat lunch.  La Mordida (translates to Little Bite) Restaurant was just a short walk away. No English spoken here. The food was modest, but the place was clean and cozy.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…………We ventured to the local Christmas Tree Farm, and purchased our first tree for the rig. No 9 footer here, like we had in the “stix & brix”; more like a 3 footer to set on the dash. CC added some lighted garland along the dash, and our Christmas decorations we set for the annual Parade of Lights scheduled here on December 14.

We have received a few e-mails commenting on our choice in cuisine, and wondered if we have gained any weight as a result of those choices. The short answer is pictured below; our dinner last night as we dined at Casa Sol Crucero. My compliments to the chef and sous chef.

After our commitment with the Customs and Border Patrol each day, we continue to frequent the pool and hot tub on a daily basis, and even manage a few miles each day on the bikes. CC continues her Chair and Zoomba classes each day they are offered. Other than that, life is boring……………..LOL Really LOL…………..Until next time, take care and stay well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

November 19 - 30, 2010 "Thanksgiving at the Beach"

Click for Weslaco, Texas Forecast

Gee whiz, time really does fly by when you’re having fun. I have heard that all my life, and never REALLY understood it, until now. It has been 6 months since we sold the “stix & brix”, and embarked on this full time RV lifestyle, and so far, no regrets, nada.

Meeting new people, and getting them to share their life’s experiences is fascinating; no matter where they originated. We have met people here from 4 countries, in addition to the US and Canada, a lady from Poland, and then, of course, there are a few from Key Beck. Where the hell is that, you asked? Eastern Canada, as in Quebec, a country in and of itself, as the true Key Becker only speaks French. It makes for some interesting conversations.

Did I mention, there is at least 1 special event every week that involves food. These Winter Texans like to eat. Having a meeting and want people to attend, just throw in something edible. This week’s event was a birthday party for Allison, the event coordinator here at Country Sunshine. Everyone attending is asked to bring something, and as always, it’s BYOB.

CC is staying active with chair exercise in the mornings at 8:15, and Zoomba at 11 AM or 1 PM. Sometime it is difficult to fit in time for a trip SOTB, but so far we have managed at least one trip per week to shop, have a margarita at the Red Panty, and dine at one of the many restaurants in Progresso. No day would be complete without our usual afternoon “Pool Time” from around 2 – 4 PM. After dinner we usually do the hot tub thing, cocktail in hand, to unwind from our hectic schedule. LOL

Pictured below is just one of the many tropical flowers surrounding the pool; Bird of Paradise, I’m told.

Because we can, we did. Bucket List Item #34 - Spend Thanksgiving Day at the beach. We opted for a trip to South Padre Island versus stay at the park and over eat at the Thanksgiving Day pot luck buffet. It was a little breezy, but we hardly noticed, as we are truly thankful for all we have, family and friends included.

After a day at the beach, what better way to unwind?

Hope your Thanksgiving was as memorable as ours. Until next time……

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 3 – 18, 2010 - "We be Winter Texans"

Click for Weslaco, Texas Forecast

We arrived at our new “home” for the winter in Weslaco, TX, the Country Sunshine RV Park. Originally, we had planned to stay here until Dec. 15, and move to either a different park in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), OR, move to Arizona. The first week we were here, we drove around and looked at 20 – 25 different parks in the RGV, extending from Mission, TX on the west end to Port Isabel on the east end, a distance of about 60 miles. We also charted average daily high and low temperatures, not only in the RGV, but Arizona as well. After we discovered that the RV parks in Arizona are about 40% - 50% more than they are here, AND, the average temps in Arizona are 4 – 7 degrees cooler, we decided to extend our stay here until March 15. CC and I have made an appearance at the heated pool (85 degrees) and hot tub (104 degrees) every day since our arrival.

With that decision behind us, it was time to do some exploring, so it was off to Nuevo Progreso, south of the border, in Mexico. From our new “home” it’s a 5 mile drive to the parking lot, where $2 allows for all day parking. Walk up to the bridge, pay your $0.25 each and walk across. That’s it; no inspections, no customs, no immigration – nada. It didn’t take long to realize we were in Mexico, as the street vendors were aggressively “hawking” their wares as we strolled down the sidewalk. It reminded us of landing in Puerto Vallarta and being bombarded by the time share sales people at the airport. We just smiled, replied, “no gracias”, and kept walking. By the time we had covered 3 blocks, we were both in need of some refreshment, so we stopped at one of the many sidewalk bars, the Red Panty Bar.

On to lunch, at The Arizona, where for $9.95 USD, two can dine with margaritas included. We chose the beef fajitas, and they were very good. The presentation is not exactly what we expected, but good, none the less, and the portions were sized perfectly for our appetites.

(CC blogs) I had the opportunity to go to a “Ropa” (Ropa vieja, which is Spanish for "Old Clothes"). Ropas are located in large buildings where the old clothes donated from Goodwill, Salvation Army and the like are piled up on the floor 10 or 12 feet high at times. Those interested shoppers can climb up on the piles and dig through, pulling and tugging for special treasures; the cost of these purchases is 20 to 30 cents a pound.

A Winter Texas couple here at County Sunshine had married earlier this year so the park residents decided to put on a mock wedding for them. Part of the wedding festivities was to find the wedding parties attire at the ropa. The ladies of the park invited me on this wonderful adventure. We had a lot of fun climbing, laughing, giggling, crawling, tugging and pulling clothes at three different ropa locations. At the end of the day the exhausted group found a bridal gown and numerous bridesmaids dresses in need of some alterations. (Pictured below, in the foreground is Gayle, the blushing bride) And finally, what better way to end a wonderful shopping trip, but with a dip in the pool.

Since South Padre Island (SPI) is less than 60 miles, we decided to make a day trip, and check out things just southeast of our “home”. It was wonderfully warm, around 83, when we arrived. I captured this flock of fledgling sandpipers as they scampered in the shallow waters looking for lunch, with watchful Mom nearby and out of the picture.

After a stroll along the beach, and some “shelling”, we decided it was time to silence our growling tummies. Daddy’s was recommended as THE place for seafood and Cajun on SPI. Starting with calamari, and culminating with the main entrée of blackened red snapper, topped with shrimp and crayfish, the food was fantastic.

The following day it was back to the grindstone, and our winter job with The Border Patrol of apprehending illegal immigrants.  In the picture below, CC and her partner, zoom by on their way up river to make an apprehension. No doubt the culprit was young, as CC the cougar, was wide-eyed as she flew by.

Neighbors here at the park, have told us about a “burger joint”, in nearby Donna, TX, Gonzales Burgers, with instructions to get there early, as they open at 10:30, and close when they are out of meat. It's difficult to see in the picture below, but there is NO signage at all; NONE. The place was very crowded, and we waited about 30 minutes after we placed our order, to get our meal. This place is truly amazing, no signs, no advertisement, only word of mouth that drives their business; the quintessential "American Dream Success Story". The burgers are HUGE, probably ¾ pound each. CC and I both ate only half, and were stuffed, so we took the remaining half home for dinner.

That pretty much sums up what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks, not to mention a couple of pot luck and buffet dinners offered here at the park. These Winter Texans love to eat. If we have a meeting scheduled, be on time; but if there is food involved, get there at least 15 minutes early. As they say, “The early bird gets the worm”.

Till next time, take care and stay well…………………….

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Jason

Today would have been Jason's 27th birthday. We miss him more each day, and although we have quit asking "why?", we reflect daily on how our lives, and the lives of others,  would be enriched if he were still with us. Mom says "Happy Birthday Turtle"; and I, well, you were (are) the greatest joy of my life and I did not deserve a son like you, but God saw fit to let me experience your kindness, warmth, compassion for others, and your superb intelligece and wit, and I am truly blessed to have had 16 years with you. We always knew how soft your heart was, and unfortunately others took advantage of one of your greatest assests. Miss ya buddy!