Saturday, March 31, 2012
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After a grueling(?) 55 mile trip from Eagle Pass, we arrived at Hidden Valley RV Park in Del Rio, TX. What made this chapter a whole lot different was the owner of the RV Park in Del Rio had instructed us to call her before we left Eagle Pass. I thought this to be a little strange, since nothing like this has happened to us before, but, being the obedient husband that I am, asked no questions, as CC phoned Janet Casey, the owner. Janet asked how fast we would be driving, and we told her about 60, and she said, “I’ll meet you outside Del Rio on the highway in my blue Yaris. I’ll flash my lights at you, and just follow me to the park”. Upon hearing this, I almost spit my teeth. We have never experienced this kind of “customer service” in almost two years of full timing. I thought to myself, that’s unheard of, but quickly reverted to my subservient role as “the other half”, and quipped, “OK”. As we approached Del Rio, sure enough, there she was; but this time, I almost swallowed my teeth. As we followed Janet, she led us through Del Rio, to the quaintest oasis of an RV Park we have ever visited. Huge 50 - 60 year old Ash, Pecan, and Oak trees encompassed the park. This can’t be, I thought to myself. We’re in the middle of a semi-arid desert. I’ll let our campsite picture speak for itself. (As usual, click on any mage to enlarge).
(CC adds her $0.02) This morning (Saturday), we decided to make a trip to Ciudad Acuna, MX for lunch. We drove to the border looking for the parking lot next to the toll bridge to allow us to walk across to the Rio Grande River. This International Bridge is not like the crossing to Nuevo Progreso, MX, (NP) there was no parking lot. After a short stop at the Customs and Border Patrol to get information on where to park, we decided to take the Border Taxi across for lunch.
We explained to the taxi driver that we were interested in having lunch and a couple of margaritas. After a short wait loading suitcases and boxes for another passenger in the van we were on our way. The toll for the southbound bridge is $3.00 per car and a short conversation with the Border Patrol confirming citizenship and reason for the visit to Mexico. The taxi driver showed us where to eat, the best Pharmacy and where the shopping before he dropped us off at the restaurant “Manuel’s”; all this for just $20.00!?
The restaurant was very nice, more like a place for fine dining. Service was great since we were the only customers at the time. The waiter came and took our drink order after he delivered the menus, I was delighted to see the menu was in English although it was priced in pesos. The margaritas and the salsa were very good. We both agreed that the food was delicious. I chose the Mexican Plate 75 pesos, and a margarita, 55 pesos, a little pricey I thought; but good, none the less.
Fester, being the conservative one, decided on the Chile Rellenos de Res, and a margarita as well.
After lunch we walked down the block toward the area recommended for shopping. We found a few shops available, just not like the shopping in NP.
After our walking tour of the area we decided to walk back across the bridge. Thirty minutes and a little less than a two mile walk we were back at out car in the Border Taxi parking lot on our way back to Hidden Valley RV Park; another enjoyable afternoon in Mexico.
Manana we move to Marathon, TX. Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, take care and stay well…………………
Thursday, March 29, 2012
We departed Weslaco in route to Laredo, TX, a 165 mile drive up along the US – Mexican border following the Rio Grande River on Hwy 83. We passed by Falcon Reservoir where the river is dammed to create a water source for irrigation of agriculture in the RGV, on both sides of the border. As we neared Zapata at the north end of the lake, the flora started to change to that of semi-arid desert with a vast array of cacti and mesquite.
After an uneventful trip (the way we like it) we arrived at Casa Blanca State Park in Laredo. By now, it was time for happy hour, and as we sat outside, noticed Peter's cousin had come to join in the fun.(As usual, click on any image to enlarge.)
The humidity was low, compared to that of the RGV, and even though temps were in the 80’s, it felt nice to sit out, and enjoy a mild breeze. (Unlike the gusty winds in the RGV.) The cacti are just starting to bloom, and we look forward to many more on our trip to Big Bend and beyond this spring.
We, actually I, am always searching for CC’s native(?) food, in the form of little non-descript places that only the locals know about. What is her native food you asked? Well, she CLAIMS to be part Choctaw Indian, but after living with her for this long, now realize there is a Mexican in the woodpile somewhere. She once had an Indian Taco in Mexican Hat, UT, and didn’t care for it at all; but she craves Mexican food daily, if not more. That, coupled with the fact that every time we went to Nuevo Progreso, the locals would start speaking Spanish to her, which she understood "un poquito". Now, where I come from, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck……nuff said about that. Where was I? Oh, yea, El Meson de San Augustine, a true diamond in the rough, with NO signage of any kind. It’s as though they don’t want any new customers. A word of warning, get there early as they only have 11 tables with 4 chairs each. We arrived about 11:20 am, and the place was full by 11:30, with a waiting line outside. (No room inside to wait.)
It is located on San Augustine Plaza at 908 Grant St., just a few hundred yards from the border. We drove by the place twice, then parked and walked, and then only figured out IT was the place as the two bordering businesses were 906 and 910. That’s right; no address on the building either. But the food my friends, OMG; the salsa was one of the best we have ever tasted; so good in fact we bought some to take home. CC chose the Chili Relleno plate for only $6.50; one queso and one picadillo.
While I opted for the roasted pork stew, which was very tasty, and made with pork belly; just a wee bit on the fatty side, as I just cut that part off. The beans had a unique flavor, and the rice as well, served up with three corn tortillas, was almost more than I could consume. Notice I said, almost. Needless to say, neither of us was hungry for dinner that evening.
Now it was time to walk off some of that pork belly. San Augustine Plaza, built on the original location of the first established home/ranch, Villa San Agustin de Laredo was founded on May 15, 1755. Don Tomás Sánchez who established the new settlement, gave it a saint's name (typical custom for all Spanish colonial settlements) and added Laredo for the town on Spain's north coast.
Sánchez was a captain in the Spanish colonial army and brought with him three families from his ranch to the site he had chosen at an Indian crossing on the Rio Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande). The settlement was part of a grand plan for bringing civilization to an area which now comprises northeastern Mexico and South Texas, known in Spanish colonial times as Nuevo Santander.
Despite isolation and raids by Lipan Apaches and Comanches, the cattle and sheep ranching settlement grew, and Laredoans found themselves participants in the conflicts of Mexico and the United States. Laredo was pillaged by Texans during the Mier Expedition in 1824, has an American garrison during the U.S.-Mexico War, and contributed two companies to the Confederate cause during the Civil War.
In 1840 it served as the capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande, a separatist movement in northern Mexico. Through these changes in sovereignty (seven flags in all), and even after heavy immigration from the north occasioned by the building of railway lines in 1881 from San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Monterrey, Laredo never lost its Hispanic character. A unique border culture had emerged.
Economically, agriculture (especially onions) assumed importance from the 1890s until about the time of the World War II. The mercantile trade with Mexico eventually became the dominant factor, and petroleum and natural gas ventures were important early in the century and again in the mid 1970s.
Beginning with a few houses around San Augustín Plaza, Laredo grew to a town of some 2,000 in the 1820s in spite of attacks by Indians who sometimes staged dances in the Plaza, to 4,000 in 1880 just before the railroads arrived. With heavy immigration in the 20th century which began with the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Laredo's population is now approaching the 180,000 mark.
With Laredo behind us, we traveled 122 miles to Eagle Pass, and pulled into the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, where the nightly rate is $15 for full hook ups.
They only have about 15 spaces, but we had no problem getting a site, but, it was mid-week, and I can only assume that since it is only two hours from both Laredo and San Antonio, securing a spot on the weekend might be problematic. This place doesn’t have the “it” factor, but what would you expect on an Indian reservation?
After dropping a few pennies in the penny slots, we decided to do their Tuesday Night Special Prime Rib Buffet for only $9.99, with a free Club Card. The food was better than average for a buffet, and we left feeling more than satisfied. Back at the rig, I thought it would be interesting to see just where we were using Google Earth; just about as close to the border as we could be. We saw Customs and Border Patrol on routine surveillance around the clock. There is no fence in this area, but I suspect anyone wanting to enter the US illegally, would prefer to do so in a more populated area, thereby blending in more quickly.
Today we move a whopping 55 miles to Del Rio. I may need a nap before Happy Hour. Thanks for stopping by, and until next time, take care and stay well………………
Monday, March 26, 2012
CC and I decided a short reprieve from this lifestyle was in order, so we planned to meet longtime friends, Terry and Janice, at the Port Royal Resort on Mustang Island, just south of Aransas Pass. It is conveniently located about 3 hours north of our winter home in Weslaco, and about 3 hours southwest of their home in Houston. We had a great time catching up and telling tall tales about a variety of topics; as Terry so often says, “You can’t BS a BSer”. Here we are on the Gulf boardwalk adjacent to the resort. (As usual, click on any image to enlarge.)
Since we are nearing an end to our stay in Weslaco, CC thought we should venture to Nuevo Progreso at least twice a week to fill our tanks with authentic Mexican food. We were told by several of the locals about a place where they prefer to eat, Alex’s Café, one block east of the main drag. It may not look the best, and it is not fancy, but the food is very good and the prices, in US dollars are reasonable; about half of what they are at popular Gringo eateries such as the Red Snapper, Garcia’s, Arturo’s or Angel’s. Diners beware no margaritas or cerveza served at Alex’s, so if that is your beverage of choice, bring it with you; no one minds and it’s a widely acceptable practice in Nuevo Progreso.
I opted for the Milanesa, and it did not disappoint. The homemade salsas were some of the best we have ever had. CC brought along her “Rita” in a styrofoam cup, whilst I sipped on a cerveza Indio.
CC enjoyed one of the largest ground beef stuffed chile rellenos I have ever seen, along with a tortilla warmer packed with a dozen handmade tortillas; all for $3. Notice the limes on the plates? If you’ve never tried fresh squeezed lime juice on Mexican food, try it. The locals use it like we Gringos use salt; it brightens the flavors and invigorates the taste buds.
And yet on another trip SOTB, a group of friends from Country Sunshine on our bi-weekly Friday luncheon get together. First stop is always at Pancho’s El Disco II for Antonio’s famous $2 margaritas; as Tony (pictured right of me) says, “You no like, you no pay”. Do we look like we’re having fun?
March 21 was Winter Texan Appreciation Day in Nuevo Progreso, and what a party it was. The Mexican people REALLY know how to put on a fiesta; live music and dancing by pretty girls, no less, free food and drinks, gifts, and most importantly, a genuine feeling of hospitality toward us gringos from the North. Below, CC and Friends, (from far left, Terry, Wendy, CC, and Arlene) showing off their fiesta masks.
The Corona Girls shakin’ their booties, and later pouring free cervezas for party goers.
Not to be outdone, Team Tecate opted for a stage complete with DJ, along with added help, stage right, pouring free cervezas for those interested.
This troupe of dancers, dressed in native costumes, stopped for a “Kodak Moment” with the girls. (Notice the bags CC and Wendy are holding? Full of free “stuff”)
Our stay in Weslaco is nearing an end. From here we will travel along the border, northwest through Laredo, Eagle Pass, and Del Rio, before turning southwest to Big Bend National Park where we will spend 5 – 7 days exploring the area. The next blog entry will be, a Wille Nelson classic; “On the Road Again”. Until then, take care and stay well……………………..